Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo may have ceremonially signed legislation banning conversion therapy for minors in a special ceremony at the State House yesterday, but credit for the legislation’s passage fell on Wendy Becker from Youth Pride Inc (YPI). Becker earned not one, but two rounds of applause for her work and was credited by the bill’s sponsors, Edie Ajello in the House and Donna Nesselbush in the Senate, for guiding the bill to passage.
“I’ve been in the General Assembly 25 years,” said Representative Edie Ajello (Democrat, District 1, Providence). “In fact, in 1992, when I was thinking about running, one of the people I talked with was Wendy Becker. And in that conversation she said, ‘It’s not such a good time for me to run, but I’ll help you if you run.’ And then she went on to ask me to do something as a legislator. Wendy asked me to work on repealing Rhode Island’s sodomy law because she and Mary wanted to adopt children. At that time, in the news, people had read that in Virginia lesbian couples were being denied the opportunity to marry because they wee considered sodomites. They were breaking the Virginia law.
“It took a couple years,” continued Ajello. “I think it was 1998 when we finally repealed the sodomy law. When Wendy Becker came to me again and asked me to work on the conversion therapy ban, I had to say yes. Wendy was just amazing in her running the campaign for passage of this bill. From organizing people to testify to organizing contacts with legislators she did it all. And it really ought to be the Wendy Becker law.
“And the good news is that Wendy and Mary are raising their own children. They are raising them to be active in the community.”
Not to be outdone, Senator Donna Nesselbush (Democrat, District 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) also sang Wendy Becker’s praises.”I really want to thank my great friend Wendy Becker, who I have been working with literally since college. Wendy was one of my best friends in college. I will embarrass her by saying that we have been rabble-rousing together for almost 30 years. I remember a day in the 1980s where Wendy showed up at my kitchen table in Pawtucket and had me sign the incorporation papers for YPI, Youth Pride Inc. … She coordinated an amazing campaign on this conversion therapy ban.”
Conversion therapy attempts to change an person’s sexual orientation or gender identification. The practice has been linked to higher rates of depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and suicide. The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association have all come out against the practice.
“The mental health treatment of young people should be based on evidence and research and not on ideology or fear,” said Nesselbush. “Conversion therapy should go by the wayside with bad things like lobotomies and forced sterilization, and now we can actually say that it has gone by the wayside.”
“LGBTQ youth should know that there is a place for them in Rhode Island,” said Governor Raimondo. “Conversion therapy is archaic, harmful, and should never be inflicted upon children. Countless studies have demonstrated that the psychological effects of conversion therapy are lasting and often devastating. As allies, we must continuously rededicate ourselves to the cause of equality and ensure that our policies match our values. I’m proud to sign legislation banning this horrific practice for minors.”
Speaking as board chair of YPI, Lisa Carcieri said, “”In a time of great uncertainly and a backlash on LGBTQ rights with our current Trump Administration, it’s essential that states take the initiative to protect all of our citizens–Rhode Island did just that with the passage of this bill for our LGBTQ youth.”
Full video of the ceremony is below.