Yesterday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a law “banning licensed health care professionals from providing conversion therapy to anyone under 18,” according to MassLive.com. This makes Massachusetts the 16th U.S. state to ban the harmful pseudo-psychological practice (along with Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico), but courts are starting to scrutinize their legality with the potential to overturn them.
The other U.S. states that ban ex-gay conversion therapy are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
Maine would’ve joined that list, but in July 2018 the state’s outgoing Republican Governor Paul LePage vetoed a bill that would have banned the practice for minors in his state. Maine now has a Democratic Governor, Janet Mills, and last month openly gay Democrat Representative Ryan Fecteau and and Democrat Senator Linda Sanborn introduced new legislation to ban the practice.
Mills has stated, “Governor LePage should have signed this bill. But where he failed, I will not.”
Every major American psychological association has called conversion therapy a harmful and ineffective form of psychological torture. A 2013 survey found that 84% of ex-gay survivors feel lasting shame and emotional harm as a result. Numerous supporters of the practice have later come out as gay and apologized.
Religious conservatives have long opposed conversion therapy bans as a violation of their “free speech” and “religious freedom.” But while the U.S. Supreme Court has previously refused to hear cases challenging the bans, that may be changing thanks to the court’s conservative makeup.
A federal judge recently issued an injunction against a conversion therapy ban passed in the city of Tampa, Florida because she felt it could violate conversion therapists’ free speech rights. Furthermore, the anti-LGBTQ legal group Liberty Counsel has asked the Supreme Court to overturn New Jersey’s ban.
A majority of American oppose conversion therapy, and more are becoming aware of the dangerous practice thanks to two recent films — The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Boy Erased — both of which depict young gay people forced into religious ex-gay programs.