Conversion therapy is an attempt to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of an LGBTQ+ individual to conform to heteronormative, cisgender archetypes using practices such as aversion therapy and talk therapy. It denies the true identity of a person, and to allow its practice on minors constitutes child abuse. In fact, conversion therapy qualifies as torture in many international spaces. Multiple studies indicate that children who undergo these “treatments” are at higher risks of suicide, attempted suicide, depression, self-injury, substance abuse, and have difficulty forming interpersonal relationships as adults. Not only does the data show that conversion therapy is harmful, but it also shows that conversion therapy does not work. Nonetheless, proponents of conversion therapy claim that the right to its practice is protected under the First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion. The practice of conversion therapy continues even though it goes against medical evidence of the dangers of conversion therapy in both the long and short term, and against federal and state statutes prohibiting emotional and physical abuse of a child. This Article addresses the relationship between LGBTQ+ individuals and the Abrahamic religions, the history of conversion therapy and its practices, and the legal framework for finding conversion therapy an act of child abuse to argue that the practice of conversion therapy in the United States should therefore garner no Constitutional protections. Not only should courts uphold bans on conversion therapy, federal and state legislatures should enact laws that expressly prevent its use on minors in any circumstance.
M. Williams, Conversion Therapy on LGBTQ+ Children as a Form of Torture and the Rights of the Child in the Face of the United States Constitution’s Free Speech and Religious Free Exercise Clauses, 26 J. Gender, Race & Just. 393 (2023).