Virginia Beach will ask the General Assembly to ban conversion therapy

The General Assembly session begins this week in Richmond.
The General Assembly session begins this week in Richmond.(Source: Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)
Published: Oct. 17, 2019 at 10:03 AM EDT
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The state’s largest city unanimously added a request to its legislative agenda Tuesday night to ban conversion therapy in the state.

Virginia Beach’s only gay councilmember, Michael Berlucchi, and the city’s Human Rights Commission added the issue to the city’s package of statewide priorities.

Being the state’s largest city puts weight behind the effort, Berlucchi said, and it means the city council should set the tone for other localities.

“It’s always important to do the right thing,” he said. “It’s important to raise awareness of the fact that our neighbors and our friends are being subjected to this treatment. It’s almost 2020, we’re evolving as a community and we’re becoming a more inclusive community that warmly embraces everyone.”

In September, Richmond City Council adopted a nonbinding resolution banning the practice in the city. The city is still working on its legislative agenda.

Conversion therapy’s aim is to change a person’s sexual orientation. Several professional organizations, including the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association, oppose and dismiss it as a legitimate therapy.

It can lead to higher suicide attempt rates among LGBTQ youth who undergo the therapy, according to a study by the Family Acceptance Project.

“I refuse to call it a therapy,” Berlucchi said. “The practitioners aren’t basing their practice in science or medicine.”

People who oppose a ban say it infringes on First Amendment rights, religious beliefs and freedom to seek counseling.