On Tuesday Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a ban on so-called “conversion” therapy meant to cure young people of being lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.
Baker, a Republican, signed the bill after it overwhelmingly passed the state House and Senate earlier this month. With his signature, Massachusetts becomes the 16th state to ban the practice of “conversion” therapy, which has been condemned by nearly every major medical association.
A similar bill was filed in the North Carolina House late last month. Despite polls showing overwhelming bipartisan support for the ban, it faces a difficult road to passage with stiff opposition from religious groups and conservative Republicans. No such bill has yet been passed in the Southeast.
Massachusetts’ law will prevent health care providers from engaging in or promoting “sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts with a patient who is less than 18 years of age.”
The North Carolina bill follows a similar path. It would prohibit licensed therapists, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists or paid pastoral counselors from attempting the therapy on anyone under 18 or on disabled adults. They could risk losing their licenses if they don’t comply. The state would be prohibited from subsidizing the practice, covering it through insurance or giving money to organizations that practice it.
“This is a practice only an adult who has the mental capacity to consent should engage in, if they so choose,” said Kendra Johnson, executive director of LGBTQ advocacy group Equality NC.
More than 700,000 people have been subjected to the practice, which Johnson said has a strong correlation to suicide. Information on the number of North Carolinians who have undergone it is not readily available, she said, because the individuals and organizations who practice it are often not very transparent about it.
“You cannot support electric shock therapy to change someone’s person, you cannot support sleep deprivation, starving children – all of those different things. Child abuse is not a parental right.”