SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday signed legislation banning therapists from trying to change a young person's sexuality.
Under the new law, those under 18 years old can get counseling to discuss concerns or thoughts about their sexuality, but professionals licenses by the state may not try to change the minor's orientation.
"These so-called 'therapies' treat homosexuality as a disease," Evanston Democratic Sen. Daniel Biss said in a statement after Rauner signed the bill Biss sponsored with state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Chicago Democrat. "They're out of date and can be deeply destructive to youth. Outlawing these practices is a small step in our pursuit for LGBT rights, but it's an extremely important step in protecting young people in Illinois."
Backers of the measure were unsure how Rauner, a first-term Republican who has kept his stance on several social issues private, would act. Rauner has refused to discuss his views on same-sex marriage.
After announcing the bill's signing, spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said Rauner has no social agenda and believes the measure protects the children's interests.
"The administration carefully reviewed this legislation to ensure it would not prohibit or otherwise interfere with religious freedom or family access to religious counseling," Kelly said in a statement.
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Chicago Democrat, has said Rauner met with a "survivor" of such therapy and appeared moved by what he heard.
The measure also adds the therapy to the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, giving people more ability to take legal action. Cassidy has contended that provision makes Illinois' ban stronger than other states.
Supporters of the measure have argued conversion therapy has been discredited and can be harmful to young people. But opponents have questioned whether therapists would be punished unfairly and say a ban limits parents' treatment decisions.
Similar legislation has been enacted in California and New Jersey. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama conveyed his support for such bans.
The bill is HB217.