North Carolina is now the first state in the South to impose a ban on conversion therapy.
Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order that stops taxpayer funds from being used to treat minors who identify as LGBTQ+ with a mental health illness.
“Conversion therapy has been shown to pose serious health risks, and we should be protecting all of our children, including those who identify as LGBTQ, instead of subjecting them to a dangerous practice,” Cooper said on Twitter on Friday.
North Carolina joins 17 others states, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. in passing laws that restrict conversion therapy. North Carolina currently has about 320,000 adults who identify as LGBTQ.
Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy or reorientation therapy, refers to the practice of trying to reverse the sexual orientation or gender identity of someone. Researchers at the Williams Institute at the University of California School of Law found that 350,000 adults in the U.S have received conversion therapy as adolescents. About 16,000 LGBTQ youth (ages 13-17) will receive conversion therapy from a licensed health care professional before they reach the age of 18, according to Williams Institute’s June estimates.
NBC Charlotte reported in February that there are thousands of people enrolled in conversion therapy programs in the Carolinas. Cooper's order stops state and federal funds from being used for conversion therapy.
Many LGBTQ advocates and civil rights groups applauded the governor.
Equality NC and the Campaign for Southern Equality launched a campaign at the beginning of the legislative session that called for the end of the practice in the state. They pushed for the Mental Health Protection Act, which would protect minors and adults with disabilities from conversion therapy. The bill stalled in the North Carolina General Assembly.
“Governor Cooper’s order will create a safer North Carolina for LGBTQ youth. Young LGBTQ people who endure ‘conversion therapy’ are at an immensely higher risk for depression and suicide than those whose identities are affirmed, a primary reason that we must do all we can to end this dangerous pseudoscience,” said Allison Scott, director of Policy & Programs at the Campaign for Southern Equality.
A June Public Policy Poll found that 87 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of Democrats and 78 percent of Independents in North Carolina support protecting minors from conversion therapy.