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Maine next state to pass ‘conversion therapy’ ban

PORTLAND, Me. — Maine has become the latest state to move toward banning “conversion therapy.”

The Portland Press Herald reported Wednesday that the Maine House of Representatives voted to ban state-licensed counselors from practicing “conversion therapy” to change youths’ sexual orientation.

The newspaper said the House passed the bill 91-46, with five Republicans and five independents joining 81 Democrats. It now heads to the State Senate. It had passed last year, but was vetoed by former GOP Gov. Paul LePage. According to the Press Herald, the legislation has a much better chance with Democratic Gov. Janet Mills.

Opponents had said there was no proof that conversion therapy was being practiced and that it infringed on parental rights and counselors’ ability to work with youth.

The Press Herald reported that the bill defines conversion therapy as “any practice or treatment that seeks or claims to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including, but not limited to, any effort to change gender expression or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions, feelings or behavior toward others based on the individual’s gender.”

“It is heartening to see the Maine House of Representatives stand up for LGBTQ youth by passing this critical legislation that will protect some of the most vulnerable Mainers from an extremely damaging practice,” said Xavier Persad, senior legislative counsel at the Human Rights Campaign, in a press release. “So-called ‘conversion therapy’ is a harmful, debunked practice that has no place in Maine or anywhere else. We’re grateful to Equality Maine and Rep. Ryan Fecteau for their leadership in ensuring this bill passed through the House with strong bipartisan support. Now, the Senate should act quickly to pass this legislation and send it to the governor’s desk.”

According to a recent report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, an estimated 20,000 LGBTQ minors in states without protections will be subjected to conversion therapy by a licensed healthcare professional. No major medical association supports its use.

The passage is part of a burst of legislation against “conversion therapy” with bans passing or being introduced in Utah, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Missouri just since the beginning of 2019. A bill that would bar Medicaid from paying for it was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in March.

Illinois banned the practice in 2015.

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