Georgia State Representative Matthew Wilson has co-sponsored legislation that would ban anti-gay conversion therapy.

HB 580, otherwise known as the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, seeks to ban “any practice or treatment that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity” among those younger than 18 years old. This would not include any counseling that provides acceptance and support for those transitioning or exploring their identity.

The bill is also co-sponsored by fellow Democratic Reps. Mary Margaret Oliver, Shelly Hutchinson, Debbie Buckner, Pat Gardner, and Karla Drenner, among others.

If passed, Georgia would be the 23rd state to work towards enacting laws to ban the practice. Currently, fifteen states have passed this kind of legislation outlawing conversion therapy, according to The Trevor Project. 

“All children in Georgia should receive care that first, does no harm. Conversion therapy has no scientific basis and contradicts the medical community’s understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Wilson, who is a gay man himself. “I am proud to sponsor this bill that helps ensure the safety of Georgia’s LGBTQ youth outlawing this incredibly dangerous practice.”

The Georgia chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is part of Converse, a coalition that’s advocating for HB 580 to be passed, says chapter Board member Roland Behm. Converse, which seeks to ensure Georgia’s children are safe and supported, includes Georgia’s medical and mental health professionals, children’s advocacy groups, LGBTQ organizations, and mental health and suicide prevention advocacy groups.

“The state of Georgia has a compelling interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of all its children,” Behm said, “and HB 580 is a critical part of that protection.”

Conversion therapy has been discredited and opposed by prominent medical associations like the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association. According to the Pan American Health Organization, a regional office of the World Health Organization, conversion therapy “lack[s] medical justification and represent[s] a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people.” Conversion therapy helps to amplify the stigma many LGBTQ youth face, stigma that contributes to higher suicide rates among LGBTQ youth than non-LGBTQ.

The Trevor Project’s 50 Bills 50 States project aims to protect LGBTQ youth from this dangerous practice by supporting legislation like HB 580.

“There is no question. Georgia must protect LGBTQ youth from the harms of conversion therapy,” Sam Brinton, the Head of Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project, said. “As The Trevor Project continues to hear from young Georgians in crisis, we know this legislation will save lives, and we’re committed to seeing it start a critical conversation in the Peach State.”

One Response

  1. Emily

    I would like to become an advocate for this cause. I have driven across the country, from Statesboro, Ga. to San Francisco, Ca., and then to Washington D.C., and then to New York. I have sought out legal representation and/or advice from the National Center for Lesbian Rights and from the Human Rights Campaign, only to be sent back “home” where I have no home. I am from a small town, I am from a conservative town, and I have traveled thousands of miles to be heard.. but yet, I have not.
    I want to make a difference. No one should ever travel and forgo the hardships that I have had to face, in the hopes that they will find someone who will listen and potentially care, then only to be turned away and sent back home. The “south” is not reality, because it is not our great country, as we are a melting pot of diversity. But for an LGBTQ in the “south”, it can be total hell; unrelenting, unforgiving, and unaccepting. I want to change this. No one should ever have to drive across the country, drive to the utmost north, or drive anywhere for that matter, to feel accepted or to feel validated. And I am 38 years old. I can only imagine what it must feel like to have fewer years on your side. And I am fortunate because I have an outstanding education, but I am still judged. I became a professional educator, and a Special Education Teacher to boot, but my struggle continues as it will for many others. South Georgia does not care about the person you are, the accolades you have achieved, or how well you do your job. They do not judge you on your character, integrity, or your professionalism, and worse.. neither does your family. If you are LGBTQ in Georgia: you are not welcomed, you are not valued, and you are not respected. And you will subsequently.. be fired. Not to mention, shunned form your own flesh and blood.

    So, I want to work for an organization where I can make a difference. I want to help the current, present, and future “us”.. the LGBTQ that are struggling to survive in a small, conservative town. I want to be an advocate, I want to present the argument for change. And I can do it. I graduated from the University of Georgia with a B.S. in Child and Family Development, and I have a Masters degree from the University of South Carolina in Elementary Teaching, with Special Education Certification P-8.
    If you would, please suggest some organizations that I may find satisfactory employment.. or with you. I did work for my local newspaper, The Statesboro Herald, i.e., Morris Multimedia, selling advertising, but that’s neither here nor there. And I prefer I not to talk about that experience.. as I was fired when I became involved with my first girlfriend. And I will mention, ironically or not (you be the judge) that I have been fired from EVERY job I have ever had. And per my mother, “It’s because you’re gay.” So, couple that statement with a dash of conversion therapy and a dollop of gaslighting.. and there you have me. In a nutshell. I am a pissed off lesbian who wants to make a difference. Tell me how I can.

    I thank you for your time and consideration. I am looking for guidance, suggestions, or advice. Any and all will be much appreciated.

    Emily Renfroe


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