Delaware Public Media

Conversion therapy ban heads to Gov. Carney

Jun 7, 2018

Gov. John Carney will soon decide whether to ban conversion therapy in the First State.


A bill barring it passed the Delaware House Thursday.

Conversion therapy seeks to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of an LGBTQ child.

Under the bill, sponsored by Rep. Debra Heffernan (D-Bellefonte), state-licensed therapists who perform conversion therapy on a child would be disciplined. It also bars the Department of Services for Youth, Child and Their Families from using conversion therapy or recommending a child receive that kind of counseling.

Heffernan said conversion therapy has been discredited and is opposed by major medical groups.

“LGBTQ youth could have tragic consequences of depression and even contemplating suicide,” she said.

Mathew Shurka said his father forced him into conversion therapy from age 16 until he was 21. He was treated in other states like Virginia, New York and California.

Shurka said he’s still dealing with the trauma of it nine years later.

“Because they believe everyone is born innately heterosexual, you have to find either someone or somehow you became gay," he said. "You most of the time going to blame your parents and their parenting and conversion therapy is most of the time breaking families apart.”

State Rep. Richard Collins (R- Millsboro) unsuccessfully introduced an amendment that would allow conversion therapy if the child and the parents request and approve it.

The bill passed the state Senate last year. If Carney signs it into law, Delaware would be the 13th state to ban the practice.