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Bills To End Conversion Therapy For Minors Introduced In Michigan House, Senate

Jason A. Michael

Bills were introduced simultaneously today in both the Michigan House of Representatives and the Michigan Senate that would essentially end conversion therapy for minors across the state. The package of bills would ensure that no minor is subjected to the harmful practice in the state and that any state-licensed provider who is found to continue the practice could risk losing their credentials.

If the bills pass, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a strong queer ally, has pledged to sign it into law.

Equality Michigan has been advocating to end the misguided and much maligned “treatment” for years. "I am optimistic and ready to get to work, as this is the year that Michigan finally puts an end to conversion therapy,” Equality Michigan Executive Director Erin Knott told Pride Source. “These bills are essential, and they represent a moment in time where we are facing numerous anti-LGBTQ+ attacks that are disproportionately targeting our youth all across this country.”

The package of bills — SB 348, SB 349, HB 4616 and HB 4617 — was introduced by Sen. Mallory McMorrow, Rep. Felicia Brabec and Rep. Jason Hoskins. If they pass, Michigan would become the 21st state, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, to ban the fraudulent and dangerous practice. There is no credible research that indicates conversion therapy, or so-called reparative therapy, works.

Instead, research shows that youth subjected to conversion therapy are more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide and more than 2.5 times likely to have made multiple attempts. What’s more, youth who undergo conversion therapy were more likely to experience serious psychological distress or depression and more likely to engage in illicit drug use according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Conversion therapy entails a range of dangerous and discredited practices. These methods have been rejected by the mainstream medical community at large.

“The research on conversion therapy is that there’s 100 percent relapse and recidivism,” said Joe Kort, a psychotherapist located in Royal Oak. “In other words, it doesn’t work. In fact, the harm it causes, especially in children and adolescents, is suicidality. Sadly, conversion therapy is done mostly by religious organizations and clergy who do not have licenses.”

Rev. Dr. Selma Massey, pastor of Whosoever Ministry United Church of Christ in Grosse Pointe Farms, said that homophobic clergy who exercise the practice are misguided. “This move by the state legislature is important and long overdue,” she said. “May we now be able to say that conversion therapy is being canceled.”

The American Psychiatric Association issued a position paper in 1998 denouncing the practice of conversion therapy. Two years ago, Whitmer signed an executive order prohibiting the use of state funds for the practice of conversion therapy on minors.

Knott said she is excited about what the passage of these bills could mean for queer youth in the state.

"To Michigan's LGBTQ+ youth, please know that you are perfect, you are who you are meant to be,” she said. “Please don't change, you are part of us and beloved. Equality Michigan is fighting for you and will not stop until this barbaric, torturous practice ends once and for all in Michigan."

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