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Maryland set to become 11th state to ban 'gay conversion therapy'

Maryland lawmakers voted Wednesday to prohibit health professionals from practicing "gay conversion therapy" on minors.

by Associated Press /

Maryland lawmakers voted Wednesday to prohibit health professionals from practicing "gay conversion therapy" on minors, after a legislator spoke of the pain she experienced when her parents sought it for her. Just days earlier, the woman's father, a state senator, voted against the bill.

The House passed the bill 95-27, sending the measure to Gov. Larry Hogan. A spokeswoman for Hogan said the governor supports the bill.

"This issue is not about Republicans or Democrats nor conservatives or liberals," Del. Meagan Simonaire said before the House vote. "It's not about religious values. It's about basic human decency. It's about the fact that it's impossible to fix something that was never broken in the first place."

Simonaire, a Republican, spoke about how, as a teenager, she kept the fact that she was attracted to both boys and girls from her parents. She said when she finally confided to them about being attracted to a female teen, they sought conversion therapy providers for her. While she never had the therapy, she says the thought that her parents believed they could "fix her" was enough to "cause significant pain, self-loathing and deep depression."

"If this bill keeps even one child from that, it will be worth sharing my story with you today," Simonaire said.

Supporters of the bill note so-called "gay conversion therapy" or "reparative therapy" is widely discredited by medical and mental-health associations. The bill would classify the practice as unprofessional conduct and subject providers to discipline by the state licensing board.

Del. Neil Parrott, a western Maryland Republican who opposes the bill, said it would interfere with the relationship between children and their counselors.

Simonaire's father, Sen. Bryan Simonaire, voted against the bill in the Senate last week, contending that it would force young people who want counseling to seek guidance from people who are not licensed.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law last week that bans licensed therapists from trying to change a minor's sexual orientation.

Related

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 the ages of 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.

Christy Mallory, one of the study's authors, told NBC News that the findings indicate the practice is far from dying off. "We're seeing it happen to younger people," she said.

She also noted that state bills prohibiting gay conversion therapy on minors generally only impact licensed health professionals, not religious or spiritual advisers.

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