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Special Project

Special Project
From the 11th Annual Shorty Awards


Entered in Social Good Campaign


In 2018, HRC implemented an unprecedented effort to protect LGBTQ youth from the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called "conversion therapy. Fifteen states plus Washington, D.C. and more than 40 municipalities across the country have explicit laws against "conversion therapy."

So-called "conversion therapy," sometimes known as "reparative therapy," is a range of dangerous and discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. There is no credible evidence that "conversion therapy" can change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Such practices have been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and American Medical Association, but due to continuing discrimination and societal bias against LGBTQ people, some practitioners continue to conduct "conversion therapy." Minors are especially vulnerable to this debunked practice, and "conversion therapy" can tragically lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness and suicide.

According to a Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law report from January 2018, an estimated 20,000 LGBTQ minors in states without protections will be subjected to "conversion therapy" by a licensed health care professional if state lawmakers fail to act.

HRC knew we had to change that -- and that social media was our strongest tool to do so.

Strategy and Execution

HRC took initiative in 2018, partnering with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and state equality groups, to pass legislation to end "conversion therapy."

We knew that social media was our most powerful tool and would play an integral role in passing legislation that protected youth from this dangerous practice.

While HRC's field team mobilized across the country to targeted states from Hawaii to Delaware, HRC's marketing team developed a systematic digital rollout for each bill. Each bill was paired with a social media blitz, including image shares, blogs and several targeted and national social media posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Every time a bill was heard in committee or on the floor, it gave us an opportunity to lift up the bill and post -- and HRC was ready.

Social media rapid response was a key feature of our campaign since bills moved so quickly. HRC had to constantly track dozens of bills every step of the way - from bill hearings to votes, both in committees and in full chambers. We set up templates for images and blogs to craft material in real time so HRC could be one of the first organizations to mobilize and respond to a bill. We used specific hashtags for the bill and state politics to make sure our content was getting into the right audience, and also placed digital ads to further our message. We created blog tags and resource pages so information regarding "conversion therapy" was easily accessible on our site. We also used pictures of HRC staff on the ground with real time updates.

This was a true rapid response, non-stop campaign that went on throughout all of 2018.

HRC mobilized our digital grassroots army in response to dozens of bills. We created action alerts, petitions and used text-to-call mobilization tools so that targeted legislators would hear from their constituents.

We also told the stories of "conversion therapy" survivors on our platforms. These stories not only moved legislators to craft these vital life-saving bills, but also urged citizens to call their local officials and make their voices heard.

HRC also harnessed the power of allyship, releasing a letter signed by national organizations representing millions of licensed medical and mental health care professionals, educators and child welfare advocates backing legislative efforts to protect LGBTQ youth from "conversion therapy." That letter included a robust social mobilization with signatories, helping us reach new audiences and our allies.

In addition to finding local stories and sharing them on social, we also did extensive research to find a young survivor of "conversion therapy" whose story would resonate with a national audience. When she was only 15, Alex's life changed when she came out to her Mormon family as a lesbian. Her parents took her to Utah, where for eight months she was subjected to efforts to change her sexual orientation. In her book about the experience, she writes: "My story is an easy one to tell. No one should be beaten, or be told that God doesn't want them, or be sent to dangerous so-called 'conversion therapy' because they are gay. No family should feel they have to choose between their faith and their child."


Our hard work paid off. Nearly 50 legislative proposals to protect LGBTQ youth from the abusive practice in more than 20 states were considered in 2018. Bills were signed into law in 2018 in Washington, Maryland, Hawaii, New Hampshire and Delaware. A growing number of municipalities have also enacted similar protections recently, including cities and counties in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, Florida, New York, Arizona and Wisconsin.

By the end of 2018, HRC posted about "conversion therapy" on social media more than 325 times and reached more than 17 million people. Alex's video had 1.4 million views just on Facebook.

Our momentum rolled into 2019, with a ban now in place in New York state and legislation passing the Colorado House in February 2019.

Alex's video went viral with thousands of comments and was picked by Huffington Post and Metro Weekly.

HRC President Chad Griffin traveled to Washington state for the bill signing and HRC Press Secretary Sarah McBride was in her home state of Delaware when the bill was signed there.

There is no doubt that this work to end this harmful and discredited practice is literally saving lives.

As momentum in the states continue to grow, HRC will continue to work at the federal level to pass the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, which would expressly classify the selling and advertising of "conversion therapy" as prohibited consumer fraud.



Entrant Company / Organization Name

Human Rights Campaign