Maryland lawmakers are working to advance legislation that would establish protections for young LGBTQ people from being subjected to the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called conversion therapy.
Proponents of the pseudoscientific practice of the “therapy,” known by euphemisms such as “reparative therapy,” claim that using psychological or spiritual interventions can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The practice of “conversation therapy” has been rejected by several medical associations and mental health organizations including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, and the National Association of Social Workers.
SB 1028, sponsored by Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery), would prohibit mental health or child care professionals from practicing “conversion therapy” with LGBTQ minors. Those who use the technique would be considered to have “engaged in unprofessional conduct and shall be subject to discipline” by the relevant professional licensing or certifying board.
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Madaleno told Rewire.News that conversion therapy is “torture,” and that no licensed medical professional in Maryland should be allowed to offer what he called “quackery.”
“No minor should be forced to go through a procedure that clearly every reputable health care organization has dismissed as being both ineffective and unethical,” Madaleno said. “All it does is create more harm and more anxiety for the young person.”
Laws banning “conversion therapy” typically prohibit the use of the therapy by licensed professionals on minors, though some LGBTQ advocates have criticized the laws and proposed legislation for their narrow focus. It is often the case that “conversion therapy” is offered by people who are not licensed professionals, putting those people outside the reach of the law.
Cullison told Rewire.News that the Maryland bill was crafted with a narrow focus to protect minors from being coerced, in order to avoid conflict with those who may claim the bill violates their religious freedom, or religious imposition.
FreeState Justice, a legal organization that advocates on behalf of LGBTQ people with low incomes in Maryland, worked with lawmakers in crafting the legislation. Mark Procopio, executive director of FreeState Justice, told Metro Weekly that the legislation would protect LGBTQ youth from unnecessary harm.
“This sends a clear message to LGBTQ youth across our state that they are welcomed and respected in Maryland,” Procopio said.
Laws that ban conversion therapy have been passed in nine states: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The District of Columbia has also passed a ban on the practice, and similar laws and ordinances have been implemented by 34 municipalities and counties.
Seventy-three percent of the LGBTQ population in the United States lives in states with no laws banning so-called conversion therapy for minors, according to the Movement Advancement Project.
Bills to ban conversion therapy have also been introduced in 18 states: Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Madaleno said he is optimistic that the bill will be passed by the Democratic-controlled state senate within the next few days, and if passed he is hopeful that Gov. Larry Hogan (R) will sign the bill into law. Hogan did not respond to a request for comment from Rewire.News.