For Immediate Release View Release Online

August 2, 2019

James Michael Nichols | Equality NC | james@equalitync.org | 919-829-0343

Adam Polaski | Campaign for Southern Equality | adam@southernequality.org | 610-306-7956

North Carolina is First Southern State to Take Statewide Action to Protect LGBTQ Young People from ‘Conversion Therapy,’ as Governor Signs Executive Order

Equality NC and the Campaign for Southern Equality expand statewide campaign to protect minors from conversion therapy in North Carolina 

RALEIGH – Today, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed an Executive Order directing the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services to ensure that no taxpayer dollars are used for conversion therapy for minors, including North Carolina Medicaid and North Carolina Health Choice. This executive action makes North Carolina the first Southern state to establish a state-level policy to protect minors from anti-LGBTQ “conversion therapy,” a dangerous practice through which licensed mental health providers attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Techniques can range from extreme electroshock treatments or institutionalization to “counseling” services based on pseudoscience.

In March, Equality NC and the Campaign for Southern Equality launched a joint statewide  campaign to end conversion therapy in North Carolina, including through the passage of the Mental Health Protection Act (HB516/SB426). This legislation was proposed in March 2019 to protect minors in NC from the discredited practice. The campaign built historic momentum for the bill’s passage, including being sponsored by 35 legislators; a robust coalition of more than 65 organizations, clergy members, and mental health agencies; press attention from dozens of outlets; and engagement from hundreds working to protect youth from “conversion therapy.” 

This statewide campaign builds on broad public support for ending “conversion therapy” in North Carolina. According to polling conducted in February 2019, 80% of North Carolinians – including 87% of Republicans, 75% of Democrats, and 78% of Independents support protecting North Carolina’s young people from conversion therapy. 

Kendra R. Johnson, Executive Director of Equality NC, today applauded Gov. Cooper’s action:

“This year our campaign ignited a conversation among North Carolinians about the importance of protecting our kids from ‘conversion therapy.’ It’s gratifying to see Governor Cooper take this critical step in the right direction. No child should be told that they must change their sexual orientation or gender identity; we’re grateful that Gov. Cooper agrees. We are committed to ending this debunked practice and will work for statewide protections.”

Allison Scott, Director of Policy & Programs at the Campaign for Southern Equality, added:

“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. As we continue our campaign to end conversion therapy once and for all, we’re looking forward to working across North Carolina to share a message of love and affirmation. We have the momentum, and now it’s time to amplify the voices of North Carolinians everywhere who are taking action to protect our youth.” 

In the months ahead, Protect Our Youth NC will amplify stories of LGBTQ young people, family members of LGBTQ people, faith leaders, mental health professionals, educators, and more who support protecting youth from conversion therapy. This storytelling effort will help educate decision-makers across the state and advocate for lawmakers to pass statewide legislation that definitively and expansively protects minors from “conversion therapy.”

Eighteen U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia have banned conversion therapy through state-level legislation. Governors in Utah, New York and Puerto Rico have taken executive action on the issue.

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Equality NC is dedicated to securing equal rights and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) North Carolinians. www.equalitync.org

Based in Asheville, NC, the Campaign for Southern Equality works for full LGBTQ equality across the South. Our work is rooted in commitments to equity in race, gender and class. www.southernequality.org