It’s official: Maryland has become the 11th state to pass a law banning conversion therapy at the statewide level.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan approved legislation on Tuesday protecting queer or trans youth from being subjected to the discredited practice, which has been condemned by every leading medical association. Any attempt to “cure” the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ minors under the age of 18 will henceforth be classified as “unprofessional conduct.”
Senate Bill 1028, which was introduced by Democratic State Sen. Richard Madaleno, states that any medical professional or counselor which violates the law “shall be subject to discipline by a certain licensing or certifying board.”
Conversion therapists could potentially face loss of licensure, but the bill does not state whether they would also be subject to financial penalties.
Hogan’s office has yet to release a statement on the passage of SB 1028, but he had previously pledged to sign the bill into law after it passed in Maryland’s Senate and House of Representatives by wide margins. During debate, Republican Del. Meagan Simonaire offered a heartfelt testimony on being pressured to seek out conversion therapy after coming out to her parents as bisexual.
Although her parents didn’t go through with it, Simonaire told colleagues that the thought of being forced into the anti-gay treatment was enough to “cause significant pain, self-loathing, and deep depression.”
LGBTQ advocates celebrated the law’s enactment after news broke Hogan finally signed the law after a month-long delay.
“No child should ever be subjected to the abusive practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy,’” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in a statement calling the treatment “dangerous and inhumane.”
“Today, Maryland is a better place for countless young people thanks to the many advocates, allies, parents, and survivors who spoke out against this practice and urged their elected officialsRepublicans and Democrats aliketo adopt these crucial protections,” he continued.
“In signing this legislation, Governor Hogan joined the General Assembly in choosing to not only protect LGBTQ youth from harm, but to send an affirmation to children across Maryland who may be struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity,” added FreeState Justice Executive Director Mark Procopio in a press release. “They are perfect as they are.”
To date, 10 other states (and D.C.) have passed statewide laws prohibiting conversion therapy: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. (Note: Although New York is often cited as banning orientation change efforts, it has not.)
In the coming weeks, Hawaii and New Hampshire are poised to join the growing list of states after passing anti-conversion therapy legislation in their state legislatures. Their respective governors are expected to sign the bills into law.
Advocates vowed to keep working until the anti-gay treatment is banned in all 50 states.
“Right now, there is a growing movement across the country,” said Carolyn Reyes, youth policy counsel for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, in a statement. “Maryland, and many other states, are taking action to protect youth from what the American Psychological Association has shown puts our youth at an increased risk of depression, substance abuse, and even suicide.”
“We will keep fighting until all of our youth are protected, no matter where they live,” she continued.
Mathew Shurka, a conversion therapy survivor and strategist for NCLR’s Born Perfect campaign to end conversion therapy, credited the work of queer and trans people coming forward to testify about the harms they experienced in anti-LGBTQ counseling. Tactics include everything from shock therapy to aversion therapy (e.g., snapping rubber bands on one’s wrists to prevent unwanted thoughts).
“By sharing our stories, survivors like Meagan Simonaire and myself can help change hearts and minds to protect LGBTQ youth,” he said in a statement. “Today, the state of Maryland took an important step to ensure that all of Maryland’s young people know that they are born perfect.”
The Williams Institute has estimated that more than 600,000 people in the U.S. have been subjected to conversion therapy.
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