Massachusetts Bans Conversion Therapy For Minors, Gov. Baker Signs Into Law

conversion therapyGov. Charlie Baker; Photo: CharlieBakerMa.com

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By: Audrey Cole/TRT Reporter— 

Massachusetts has become the 16th state to ban conversion therapy for minors after being signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker on Monday.

“Conversion therapy is a disgraceful remnant of the mistreatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in our society. It is based on the long-discredited notion that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is a mental disorder or abnormality,” said Ben Klein, Senior Attorney for GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).

The ban received widespread support by both bodies in the Mass. legislature before advancing to Baker’s desk, The Rainbow Times reported last week. The Senate voted unanimously to support the ban, with the exception of five abstentions. The House voted 147-8.

The bill prohibits health care professionals from attempting to change “the sexual orientation and gender identity” of any patient younger than 18, the Globe reported, which many professional organizations (including the APA) have deemed as a dangerous and discredited practice.

“This law will protect youth from the significant harm inflicted by those who engage in the antiquated practice of conversion therapy” Klein explained via a release. “LGBTQ youth must be able to grow up in a world in which they can thrive and develop into adults under the same conditions as their peers. This bill is a proud moment in Massachusetts’ long history of creating a better world for all young people.”

Baker, late last month, indicated to The Rainbow Times that he would be “inclined to support the ban” once it reached his desk, via a press conference.

“ … conversion therapies are not only ineffective, but they increase depression and anxiety, as well as increase suicidality, and can create trauma symptoms in individuals who are subjected to its techniques,” said Will Halpin, LICSW, MPH, Public Health Social Worker, and Licensed Psychotherapist, to The Rainbow Times.

Massachusetts is the latest state to ban the practice and follows a historic decision by Puerto Rico’s Gov.  Ricardo Rosselló  who recently signed an executive order banning conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth on the island.

In 2016, The Rainbow Times reported on a statement by the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) condemning the use of conversion therapy by saying: “WPA believes strongly in evidence-based treatment. There is no sound scientific evidence that innate sexual orientation can be changed. Furthermore, so-called treatments of homosexuality can create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish, and they can be potentially harmful. The provision of any intervention purporting to “treat” something that is not a disorder is wholly unethical … Psychiatrists have a social responsibility to advocate for a reduction in social inequalities for all individuals, including inequalities related to gender identity and sexual orientation.”

A recent GLAD press release indicated that “today there is a consensus among the medical and mental health professional groups that conversion therapy is ineffective, and that it subjects individuals to significant harm. It has been condemned by The American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Counseling Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychoanalytic Association, Australian Psychological Society, British Psychological Association, Endocrine Society, National Association of Social Workers, Psychological Society of Ireland, Psychological Society of South Africa, and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.”

Conversion therapy is also banned in California, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Oregon, New Jersey, Illinois, Vermont, New Mexico, Nevada, Washington, Hawaii, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, and New York, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

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