March 4 (UPI) -- Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has signed a bill banning conversion therapy for minors in the state.
With the signing of the law Wednesday, Virginia became the 20th state to protect youth from the practice that attempts to forcibly change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity.
"Conversion therapy sends the harmful message that there is something wrong with who you are," Northam said. "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. No one should be made to feel they are not okay the way they are -- especially not a child. I am proud to sign this ban into law."
Virginia Delegate Patrick Hope, who introduced the bill in the state House, described conversion therapy as "a dangerous, destructive practice."
"We should be supporting and celebrating our LTGBQ youth, not putting them in harm's way," Hope said.
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah Vermont, Washington, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have similar laws, according to the Human Rights Campaign.