Maryland Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan, a Republican, signed the Youth Mental Health Protection Act into law on Tuesday, making the state the 11th to ban “gay conversion therapy” for minors.
Amit Paley, CEO of The Trevor Project, a national LGBTQ youth crisis intervention organization, called the law “a victory in our fight to protect LGBTQ young people everywhere from this dangerous and discredited practice."
Conversion therapy aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Also known as “reparative therapy” or “ex-gay therapy,” it is widely discredited by medical and mental-health associations, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Psychoanalytic Association and the American Counseling Association.
California was the first state to ban the practice for minors in 2012. Since then, 10 other states and the District of Columbia — as well as nearly three dozen localities — have followed suit, according to The Trevor Project. In February 2016, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced regulations restricting the practice, but conversion therapy is not fully banned in the state.
Last month, the Maryland House of Delegates passed the Youth Mental Health Protection Act by a vote of 95-27. Before the vote, one lawmaker, Republican Delegate Meagan Simonaire, spoke passionately about how, as a teenager, she kept the fact that she was attracted to both boys and girls from her parents. Simonaire said when she finally told her parents, they sought conversion therapy providers for her. While she was never subjected to the therapy, she said the thought that her parents believed they could "fix her" was enough to "cause significant pain, self-loathing and deep depression." Simonaire’s father, State Sen. Bryan Simonaire, also a Republican, voted against the bill.
A study published in January by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law estimated approximately 700,000 LGBTQ adults have undergone conversion therapy at some point in their lives, including about 350,000 who received treatment as adolescents. The report also estimated 20,000 LGBTQ youth currently between 13 and 17 will receive conversion therapy from a licensed health care professional before they reach 18, and approximately 57,000 will be subjected to the controversial practice from a religious or spiritual adviser.
In addition to Maryland, Connecticut, California, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia all have laws or regulations banning conversion therapy for minors. Lawmakers in New Hampshire and Hawaii have passed similar bills that are awaiting their governors’ signatures.