Maine is the most recent state to pass a law banning conversion therapy for minors and those seeking help for unwanted same-sex attraction.
Democrat Governor Janet Mills signed LD 1025, the “Act to Prohibit the Provision of Conversion Therapy to Minors by Certain Licensed Professionals,” into law on Wednesday. Maine is now the 17th state in the nation to ban the practice.
In a statement, Mills claimed that conversion therapy, also known as sexual orientation change efforts therapy, is “a harmful, widely-discredited practice that has no place in Maine.”
“By signing this bill into law today, we send an unequivocal message to young LGBTQ people in Maine and across the country: we stand with you, we support you, and we will always defend your right to be who you are,” said Mills.
Assistant House Majority Leader Ryan Fecteau, who sponsored the bill, echoed Mills’ comments in an official statement, calling SOCE therapy “irresponsible and harmful.”
Critics of the legislation, including the Christian Civic League of Maine, denounced the measure as an attack on both religious freedom and the rights of parents.
“This bill would equate sound biblical counseling with torture and abuse under the name of Conversion Therapy. LD 1025 is a tremendous threat to the religious and parental rights of Maine’s citizens,” the socially conservative group said.
Maine defeated similar legislation last year when then Republican Governor Paul LePage vetoed the bill, arguing that it was too broad in its scope.
“This is so broad that licensed professionals would be prohibited from counseling an individual even at the individual's own request,” said LePage last July.
“… young people should not be physically or mentally abused if they come out to their parents or guardians because they have experienced sexual or romantic attraction to an individual of the same gender. However, as it is written — 'any practice or course of treatment' — can call into question a simple conversation.”
Other states that have banned SOCE therapy include: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington state, as well as the District of Columbia.
In January, Christopher Doyle, a professional counselor licensed to practice in Maryland, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Maryland’s ban on SOCE therapy, known as Senate Bill 1028.
“SB 1028 prohibits counseling to minors seeking to eliminate, reduce, or resolve unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity by licensed professionals, which is causing immediate and irreparable harm to Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s clients,” read the lawsuit’s introduction.
“By denying minors the opportunity to pursue a particular course of action that can most effectively help them address the conflicts between their sincerely held religious beliefs and goals to eliminate, reduce, or resolve unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity, SB 1028 is causing those minors confusion and anxiety over same-sex sexual attractions, behaviors, and identity and infringing on their free speech and religious liberty rights."