Metro Weekly

Maine bans “harmful, widely discredited” anti-LGBTQ conversion therapy

Maine becomes the 17th state to ban conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth

Gov. Janet Mills signs conversion therapy ban into law — Photo: Governor of Maine

Maine has become the 17th state to ban conversion therapy, after Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed a bill banning the practice into law.

Conversion therapy — which has been discredited by the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and American Medical Association, among others — claims to forcibly change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

This can involve talk therapy, or more extreme methods such as aversion therapy or electroshock therapy.

The new law prohibits licensed professionals from “advertising and administering so-called conversion therapy methodology to minors.”

Speaking at the signing, Gov. Mills said that conversion therapy “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,” Mills added.

Assistant House Majority Leader Ryan Fecteau (D-Biddeford), who sponsored the bill, said that no young LGBTQ person should feel the need to “fix” themselves.

“The legislature and Gov. Mills are sending a clear and concise message to our LGBTQ young people: You matter. You belong. And you are loved for who you are,” Fecteau said. “So-called conversion therapy is irresponsible and harmful. I am so proud that Maine is standing tall to affirm that no young person needs to ‘fix’ what is not broken.”

House Majority Leader and Equality Maine Executive Director Matt Moonen (D-Portland), called the legislation “the result of two years of tireless work by advocates, medical and mental health care providers, and lawmakers alike.”

“It is so refreshing to have leaders who understand that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is not a defect or disorder that can be treated, and we’re so grateful to Representative Ryan Fecteau and Governor Janet Mills for their leadership,” Moonen said. “LGBTQ youth in Maine can rest assured that their government knows that their identities are valid, they are not broken, and the state of Maine will protect them from this heinous practice.”

Maine joins California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and D.C.  — as well as a number of local municipalities — in passing bans on conversion therapy.

In addition to leading medical professional organizations, several prominent members of the conversion therapy — or “ex-gay” — movement have also come out against the practice, slamming it as ineffective and advocating for it being banned.

In February, David Matheson, a former “ex-gay” advocate who spent years promoting conversion therapy to LGBTQ Mormons, finally admitted that the practice does not work and should be stopped.

In an interview with Britain’s Channel 4 News, Matheson said that conversion therapy “just can’t” change a person’s sexual orientation, that it “should be stopped” in the U.S., and expressed regret over the harm caused to LGBTQ people by his work.

In January, John Smid — former executive director of Love in Action, a conversion therapy organization —  stated that the practice does not work and should be stopped.

Smid, who inspired a character in conversion therapy drama Boy Erased, wrote in a column for the Advocate that organizations still advocating for the practice in 2019 “blithely disregard the mountain of evidence” against it.

And in 2013, Alan Chambers, president of conversion therapy umbrella organization Exodus International, came out as gay and shutterd Exodus for good.

Speaking to Metro Weekly in 2016 that people should be warned against conversion therapy: “This is not something that’s going to work. This is dangerous. It creates shame. It is not something that is going to produce an orientation change in you.”

Chambers said that conversion therapy should be banned for adults, not just minors, and unlike Matheson, both he and Smid are working to make amends for the damage inflicted by their work.

Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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