(CNN) — Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has signed into law a bill banning the controversial practice of “conversion therapy” for minors, according to a release from his office Tuesday.
The legislation, House Bill 386, adds the commonwealth to a growing list of states that have issued similar bans on the widely discredited practice, which attempts to forcibly change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Northam said in the news release that he was proud to sign the bill, adding that “conversion therapy sends the harmful message that there is something wrong with who you are.”
“This discriminatory practice has been widely discredited in studies and can have lasting effects on our youth, putting them at a greater risk of depression and suicide,” he said, adding that “no one should be made to feel they are not okay the way they are — especially not a child.”
The legislation makes it illegal for licensed professionals in the state to engage in conversion therapy for Virginians younger than 18 and prohibits state funds from being used to conduct the therapy on minors. The practice does not work, and studies show that those subjected to it, or who choose to undergo it, are put at a greater risk of depression and suicide.
The measure, sponsored by Delegate Patrick Hope, passed both of the state’s Democratic-led chambers last month.
“Conversion therapy is a dangerous, destructive practice,” Hope said in a statement. “We should be supporting and celebrating our LGTBQ youth, not putting them in harm’s way.”