Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed an executive order on Wednesday banning the medically denounced practice of “gay conversion” therapy for minors across the island.
“Today we take a step forward to raise awareness among the people about this type of practice that causes pain and suffering,” Rosselló said, adding that the ban would help “protect children.”
“Love and respect should always prevail without distinction of sexual orientation, race, color or religion,” he added.
The executive order takes effect immediately, according to the Human Rights Campaign. It requires Puerto Rico’s secretary of health, its secretary of economic development and trade, and the administrator of the Mental Health and Anti-Addiction Services Administration to issue regulations within 90 days restricting licensed health care facilities and workers from engaging in conversion therapy with minors.
Among those to praise the news was the Trevor Project’s head of advocacy and government affairs, Sam Brinton, who said in an email to HuffPost that the organization was grateful to Rosselló for “taking decisive action to protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy.”
“LGBTQ youth in crisis reach out to us every day, including young people from Puerto Rico, and this action will undoubtedly save young LGBTQ lives,” Brinton added. The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services, including a round-the-clock helpline, for LGBTQ people under 25.
Conversion therapy, also called “reparative therapy” and “ex-gay therapy,” is aimed at ridding an individual of their same-sex attraction. It may include such methods as talk therapy, electroshock therapy and even treating LGBTQ identity as an addiction, not unlike substance abuse disorders related to drugs or alcohol.
The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have both denounced the practice. It can lead to depression and suicide, particularly among minors, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Yet it continues to be promoted in conservative religious communities.
Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, joins 15 states ― including Delaware, New York, Rhode Island and Hawaii ― in banning conversion therapy practices on minors. Washington, D.C., and a number of cities have adopted similar legislation as well.