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The Virginian-Pilot: Virginia groups outline equality agenda in Richmond Print


Created:  Tuesday, January 20, 2015


The legalization of gay marriage last year gave lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Virginians "a glimpse of what true equality looks like," James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, said today.

Now, with "hearts and minds" changing every year, it's time to take that equality to the next level, he said.

Achieving that goal includes passing legislation prohibiting discrimination in housing and in the workplace and removing gender-specific language from the state code that excludes same-sex couples, supporters said during a news conference near the Capitol.

They denounced a Senate committee's defeat of a bill (SB799) requiring State Police to collect data on hate crimes committed against victims because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Another major issue is prohibiting licensed medical professionals, such as counselors and therapists, from practicing conversion therapy on minors, said Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, who has a bill (HB1385) to outlaw the practice, which seeks to change a child's sexual orientation. It excludes clergy.

During a separate press conference, opponents of conversion therapy, sometimes called reparative therapy, talked about the devastating effects it can have on children and teenagers. The result is often shame, depression and anxiety, they said. Sometimes the result is suicide.

Survivors talked about undergoing the therapy in Charlottesville and Virginia Beach, as well as in other states.

Major medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, have denounced the practice, Hope said.

"There is no on-off switch to sexual orientation," Hope said. "We need to protect our children at a minimum."

Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb issued a statement opposing the bill, instead calling the therapy "gender confusion counseling."

"Virginia law is clear that parents have a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care of their children," Cobb wrote, "a right this legislation clearly violates."