CONVERSION THERAPY BAN SPARKS DEBATE
Longtime supporters of legislation that would make Massachusetts the sixteenth state to ban sexual orientation conversion therapy for minors are hoping this year is finally the year it becomes law.
The proposed prohibition on state-licensed health care providers offering conversion therapy nearly became law last summer, clearing both the House and Senate on the final day of formal sessions in July. But Democratic legislative leaders failed to deliver the bill to Gov. Charlie Baker, and are now restarting their effort to advance the controversial measure. Rep. Kay Khan, the co-chair of the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, has refiled the legislation (H 110), and it was the subject of a crowded, emotional hearing Tuesday where parents, pastors, lawmakers and members of the LGBTQ community argued both sides of the issue. “Conversion therapy is based on the concept that people’s sexual orientation or gender identity can be fixed. Well, I say there’s nothing to fix,” said Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler, Sen. Julian Cyr, a Cape Cod Democrat and one of several openly gay members of the Legislature, said, “As an out man I’m embarrassed that over a dozen states have banned conversation therapy and we haven’t done so in Massachusetts,” Cyr said. Fifteen states have already banned licensed conversation therapy, and Khan’s bill has 117 co-sponsors in the House and Senate, more than half of all elected lawmakers. The bill would only apply to therapy for minors under the age of 18, and it has an exemption for religious institutions. Still, some people urged lawmakers not to take away the option from people who find different types of therapy helpful. Neil Hubacker, a pastor from Beverly, said young people in his congregation often seek help with finding ways to align their faith with their same-sex attraction. “I’m glad I had several counselors on hand that I could send them to,” Hubacker said. Another mother testified about the pain she experienced watching her transgender daughter take hormones and go through surgeries to transition to life as a man, and asked that the government not get involved in family decisions about health care. – Matt Murphy/SHNS