A Maine bill banning conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth is effectively dead after its House of Representatives upheld a Friday veto from Gov. Paul LePage.
On Friday, LePage became the first governor in the U.S. to veto a bill banning the discredited anti-LGBTQ practice after calling the legislation—known as LD 912—“bad public policy” in a veto statement.
“This bill attempts to regulate professionals who already have a defined scope of practice and standard of care per their statutory licensing requirements,” LePage alleged. “I strongly agree that young people should not be physically or mentally abused if they come out to their parents or guardians because they have experienced sexual or romantic attraction to an individual of the same gender.”
Calling the legislation too broadly worded, the conservative remarked that its language could “call into question a simple conversation.”
In order to supersede the governor’s veto, House representatives would need to clear 100 votes in the 151-member body, where Democrats hold a slim majority. Supporters fell well short of that threshold on Monday with a final tally of 79 to 61. The bill passed the House last month by a 80-to-55 margin.
The governor’s veto, while novel, wasn’t a surprise. LePage was one of 11 governors to oppose 2016 guidance from the Obama administration offering best practices to schools on affirming the gender identity of trans youth.
Meanwhile, the controversial Republican once referred to a political opponent as a “little son-of-a-bitch, socialist cocksucker.”
When INTO reached out to LePage’s office last month, Press Secretary Julie D. Rabinowitz declined to comment on the governor’s position. “Our office does not speculate on what action he will take on a bill,” his representative said at the time.
LGBTQ advocates decried LePage’s veto after six Republican governors have already signed bills outlawing conversion therapy at the statewide level.
“Governor LePage’s shameful decision to veto this life-saving legislation leaves Maine’s LGBTQ youth at risk of being subjected to a practice that amounts to nothing less than child abuse,” said Human Rights Campaign National Field Director Marty Rouse in a statement.
“Government’s greatest responsibility is to protect its most vulnerable citizens, especially minors who may not be able to protect themselves,” added Equality Maine Executive Director Matt Moonen. “Governor LePage had the opportunity, in one of his final acts as governor, to make Maine a safer place for LGBTQ youth. Unfortunately, he chose petty politics over protecting kids.”
LePage will be prevented by term limits by seeking reelection in 2018. One of America’s least popular governors, his 2014 victory over openly gay challenger Mike Michaud was largely viewed as a surprise. Just 43 percent of Maine voters approve of the job LePage is doing as governor.
In his statement on LD 912, LePage displayed some of the personality traits that have made him such a controversial governor.
The conservative hinted that his veto of the conversion therapy bill—which found bipartisan support in both houses of the Maine Legislature—was partially motivated as retaliation against Maine’s refusal to pass a ban on female genital mutilation. Democrats killed legislation outlawing the practice earlier this year because it’s already prohibited at the federal level.
LePage nonetheless called it a “double standard” on the part of Maine liberals.
“Legislators who could not stand up and outlaw the permanent mutilation of young girls’ sexual organs by laypersons in unsanitary conditions with razor blades are now concerned with outlawing conversations, of which there is also ‘no evidence’ that it is happening in Maine,” he said. “This is a disgusting double-standard.”
Ryan Fecteau, the bill’s sponsor, called the failure of LD 912 “disappointing” and “ludicrous,” but the legislation may fare better under LePage’s successor.
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills and businessman Shawn Moody will face off in the 2018 general election. Mills, a Democrat, came out in support of a conversion therapy ban in March, calling it a “pseudoscientific process.” Testifying in favor of the bill, she called conversion therapy an “abusive practice that endangers the lives of LGBTQ youth and has no place in our society.”
Moody, who ran as an independent prior to becoming the Republican nominee, has not publicly stated his position on the issue. However, the outsider candidate signaled during his 2010 campaign he would be open to signing a marriage equality bill if it were backed by voters in the state.
Thirteen states (and D.C.) have passed legislation outlawing conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth at the statewide level.