WASHINGTON — Conversion therapy could soon be illegal in the Commonwealth of Virginia – making it the first Southern state to adopt such legislation.

Last month, the Virginia State Senate voted 21-18 in support of SB 245, which would prohibit health care providers licensed by the Department of Health Professions from engaging in conversion therapy for anyone under the age of 18. On Monday, the Virginia House of Representatives passed their version of a conversion therapy ban, HB 386.

All House Democrats voted for the bill, along with 11 Republicans.

Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy or sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), is a practice – viewed by most mental health organizations as not just ineffective, but potentially harmful – that seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual, or at least to diminish what supporters call “unwanted same-sex attraction.”

It is illegal to perform conversion therapy on minors in 15 states and the District of Columbia.

RELATED: D.C. could be 2nd city in U.S. to ban conversion therapy for some adults

RELATED: Virginia boards look to end conversion therapy for minors

WUSA9 reported in early 2019 that Virginia’s professional licensing boards were seeking to ban licensees from providing conversion therapy through the regulatory process. The decision to seek a regulatory solution came after years of legislation failing to overcome opposition by Republican members of the legislature and conservative religious groups in the state.

At the time, Dr. Herb Stewart, chairman of the Board of Psychology, told WUSA9 he believed a regulatory ban was necessary to protect Virginia youth.

“Some of these therapists are well-meaning. Some of them are driven much more by ideology,” Stewart said. “But the bottom line is, I think that it’s sufficiently harmful and clearly ineffective, and I think it’s the role of the state to come in and say it’s not OK. You can’t do that. Whether it’s peddling bad food or peddling snake oil or providing conversion therapy. I think it’s an important role for us to take, and I hope that we can move this forward.”

But Democrats’ wins at the voting booth in November gave them control of the governorship, Senate and House – and the ability to pass a slate of legislation, including the conversion therapy ban.

The House and Senate versions will have to be reconciled before they are sent to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam, who helped push for the legislation.

In addition to the conversion therapy ban, Virginia Democrats have advanced bills this session that would prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment and credit applications,  and a separate bill that would add the categories of gender, disability, gender identity and sexual orientation to the state’s hate crimes law.

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Jordan Fischer is an investigative reporter with WUSA9. Follow him on Twitter at @JordanOnRecord.