BOSTON (AP) The Massachusetts House has overwhelmingly approved a bill that would ban so-called “gay conversion therapy” for minors.
The bill passed on a 137-14 vote Wednesday.
Supporters of the ban say the therapy which aims to alter a person’s sexual orientation is widely discredited by medical and mental health associations. They say the therapy is premised on the belief that being LGBTQ is an illness that needs to be cured.
Supporters say the therapy can lead to depression and suicide in young people.
State Rep. Kay Khan said attempts to alter an individual’s sexual identity can be emotionally traumatizing, particularly for teens and children.
“There’s a broad consensus in the medical community that attempts to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity through conversion therapy are unnecessary, ineffective and harmful,” the Newton Democrat said.
Opponents of the ban say the state shouldn’t come between a patient and their therapist. They say if sexual desires and gender identities exist on a spectrum, therapy that addresses gender identity should be allowed.
Rep. Marc Lombardo said he understands the impulse to protect children and opposes conversion therapy that brings pain and suffering to a child, but said the bill is written in a way that is in violation of the First Amendment right to free speech.
“The idea that a doctor can’t speak to a 12-year old child about some alternatives maybe to permanent, life-changing surgeries without being in violation of the law and potentially losing their medical license is crazy to me,” the Billerica Republican said, predicting that the bill will end up in court.
Andrew Beckwith of the Massachusetts Family Institute also opposed the bill.
“I think everyone would acknowledge that sexual desires and feelings and gender identities exist sort of on a fluid spectrum. That’s what is sort of being taught in most public schools in Massachusetts,” he said. “So why would we want to cut off avenues of therapy … among children who don’t want to act out on certain sexual desires or may want to live consistent with their anatomy?”
Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo hailed the lopsided vote, saying he supports the push to ban what he said was a discredited form of therapy aimed at the young and vulnerable.
“This practice has no scientific basis, is rooted in bigotry and can have lasting, detrimental health effects,” DeLeo said. “In short, there is no place for this cruel activity in Massachusetts.”
The bill would still allow adults to engage in conversion therapy if they choose.
The bill now goes to the Massachusetts Senate.
About a dozen states have already approved similar conversion therapy bans, including California, Rhode Island and Connecticut.