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Sides clash over parents’ right to ‘convert’ homosexual children

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia lawmakers who support the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Virginians spoke out in favor of a bill that would address an issue raised on a billboard seen along Interstate 95 in Richmond.

LGBT billboard

The billboard supports conversion therapy. Conversion therapy is based on the notion that therapy can prevent or stop a person's homosexual feelings.

House Bill 1385 would outlaw conversion therapy in Virginia.

Opponents of the bill argue putting a limit on the options a child has for dealing with sexual confusion is wrong.

Family Foundation

"Proponents of legislation prohibiting counseling for kids with gender confusion have to answer the question why they believe it is okay to allow a child to change their behavior or body to match their feelings but it is bigoted to consider helping someone change their behavior or feelings to match their body," Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb said. "Virginia law is clear that parents have a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care of their children, a right this legislation clearly violates."

Mathew Shurka has a different take on the issue.

Shurka said after he came out about his sexuality to his father, he had to undergo years of conversion therapy.

Mathew Shurka

Mathew Shurka

"My father believed that there was a chance that this could just be a phase, maybe this is just something I'm going through," Shurka said.

He said one therapist prescribed him Viagra to help him have sex with women, another therapist told him to no longer speak with his mother and sister.

"My grades started to fall in school. I went to a straight a student to a failing student. I was having depression," Shurka added.

There are laws on the books in California, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. that bans the practices in those places.

"Today, more than ever, it is clear that state legislatures need to step up to the plate to protect LGBT youth from the dangerous and discredited practices of conversion therapy," National Center for Lesbian Rights Staff Attorney and #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator Samantha Ames said in a statement.

Other LGBT-related bills in the 2015 Virginia General Assembly include:

  • SB 785 -- addresses discrimination in the workplace
  • SB 1211 and HB 1600 -- revises gender-specific terms in the Code of Virginia to reflect the rights of same-sex married couples
  • SB 679 -- a second-parent adoption bill
  • SB 917 and HB 1454 -- a fair-housing bill that would prevent landlords from discriminating against potential LGBT renters