Maryland is set to become the 11th state to ban conversion therapy after its House of Delegates voted in favor of a bill outlawing the discredited practice.
On Wednesday, the lower house of the Maryland legislature passed Senate Bill 1028 by a 95 to 27 margin. Introduced by Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) and Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), SB 1028 fines any medical professionals claiming to “cure” the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ youth.
Any practitioners caught in violation of the law also face having their license revoked.
During debate in House, Del. Meagan Simonaire (R-Pasadena) revealed she was almost subjected to an effort to change her sexual orientation after revealing to her parents that she is bisexual. Although her parents sought reparative therapy providers to “fix her,” Simonaire claims they didn’t go through with it.
The conservative lawmaker did say, however, that even the thought of being forced into the anti-gay treatment was enough to “cause significant pain, self-loathing, and deep depression.”
Simonaire said it would be “worth sharing [her] story” if it keeps youth from being subjected to conversion therapy.
In a surprising twist, Simonaire’s state Senator father, Bryan, voted against the conversion therapy bill. He told colleagues during debate that he didn’t believe orientation change efforts are “abuse in every case.”
Simonaire hypothesized that conversion therapy could be practiced in a “loving way.”
“The definition is so expansive this bill could revoke someone’s license and livelihood by a simple conversation,” he continued. “I wonder if Jesus would have been banned if he had been licensed in Maryland.”
But contrary to the Republican legislator’s claims, reparative therapy has been condemned as harmful and ineffective by nearly every leading U.S. medical association. The American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and American Medical Association have all come out against the practice, which includes everything from aversion therapy to shock treatment.
As the Maryland Senate has already approved SB 1028, the bill now moves to Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk. A spokesperson for the conservative governor has already indicated he supports the legislation.
LGBTQ advocates celebrated SB 1028’s likely passage.
“Every day, my fiance kisses me goodbye as he drives off to work in Prince George's County, Maryland,” says Sam Brinton, who is head of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project and a survivor of conversion therapy, in a press release. “And every day, LGBTQ youth coming into his store were at risk of being forced to receive the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy, at risk of being erased.”
“But today those youth should know that risk just got a lot smaller,” Brinton adds.
Fellow survivor Mathew Shurka, who advocates on behalf of the anti-conversion therapy campaign Born Perfect, says that when the group began its work, the issue enjoyed “mixed support” in the Maryland legislature. Shurka feels the majority vote reflects the hard work of the team in changing hearts and minds across the United States.
“Today’s vote shows an overwhelming support to protect LGBTQ youth,” he says in a statement. “Maryland, which is home to the Naval Academy, is now stating a clear message: It is a state that protects its youth.”
Shurka’s colleague at Born Perfect, campaign coordinator Carolyn Reyes, applauds the decision in comments shared with INTO. She claims the bill would serve to “[protect] LGBTQ youth from harm and their parents from being defrauded by professionals they trust to care for their children.”
Conversion therapy has been outlawed in 10 states and the District of Columbia. Those states include California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
The state of Washington signed its anti-conversion therapy bill into effect last week.
It’s often reported that New York has banned orientation change efforts on LGBTQ youth, but that is inaccurate. Although Gov. Mario Cuomo signed an executive order in 2016 restricting the practice by banning “public and private health care insurers from covering the practice,” efforts to pass legislation outlawing conversion therapy at the statewide level have stalled.
Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call