Massachusetts just became the 16th state to ban practicing conversion therapy on minors, making this a critical victory for LGBTQ youth in the state. Conversion therapy, which attempts to change people’s gender identity or sexual orientation, is largely discredited and has been opposed by the American Psychological Association since 1998. Despite this, 34 states still allow LGBTQ children to be subjected to the practice, which can have serious detrimental effects.
That will not be the case in Massachusetts anymore, however. This week, Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill that bans conversion therapy for minors, making Massachusetts the latest state to ban the practice. The bill prohibits healthcare workers from engaging in “sexual orientation or gender identity change efforts for a patient who is less than 18 years of age.” The limits on the bill wouldn’t allow it to protect against religious clergy participating in conversion therapy, nor does it prohibit the use of such therapy for adults.
Of course, increased protections for LGBTQ people seem always to come with opposition. The Massachusetts Family Institute, a conservative group, actively opposed the ban and has threatened to sue the state over the bill’s implementation. The group argues that the bill infringes on parents’ rights and the free speech of therapists.
“Children everywhere deserve to live their lives authentically and should never be subjected to the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called conversion therapy. We laud and thank those who voted in the Massachusetts legislature to pass — in bipartisan fashion — these vital and potentially life-saving protections in the Bay State,” said HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse in a statement.
“Ultimately, we all know this bill will ensure that children receive therapy in a healthy, evidence-based, and medically sound manner, not one which fosters an atmosphere of self-hate, prejudice, and intolerance,” Representative Kay Khan told WBUR about the bill at the time of the first vote.
We hope the states that have yet to ban conversion therapy follow Massachusetts’ lead in protecting young LGBTQ people and their rights.