By Bob Katzen
Governor Baker signed into law a bill that would prohibit psychiatrists, psychologists and other health care providers from attempting to change the sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression of anyone under 18. Conversion therapy exposes the person to a stimulus while simultaneously subjecting him or her to some form of discomfort. The therapy is primarily used to try to convert gays and lesbians to be straight. Mental health experts and LGBTQ groups charge that the practice is scientifically unproven and unsound and can trigger depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts in youngsters who are subjected to it.
“This law will protect youth from the significant harm inflicted by those who engage in the antiquated practice of conversion therapy,” said Ben Klein, Senior Attorney for GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. “LGBTQ youth must be able to grow up in a world in which they can thrive and develop into adults under the same conditions as their peers. This bill is a proud moment in Massachusetts’ long history of creating a better world for all young people. Today there is a consensus among the medical and mental health professional groups that conversion therapy is ineffective.”
“This law is an extraordinarily invasive assault on the rights of parents to raise their children and a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech for the counselors whose help they seek,” said Andrew Beckwith, President of the Massachusetts Family Institute. “[We] will pursue legal action against the counseling ban to defend those constitutional rights in our commonwealth.”