Public Versus Lansing Reaction
State Sen. Mallory McMorrow said she generally receives one of two reactions to an anti-conversion therapy bill she introduced in April.
“The response overwhelmingly from my residents and the broader community is, ‘I cannot believe this is a thing that is allowed. And I cannot believe this is a thing that we would do to kids,’” she said of the pseudoscientific practice which aims to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Specifically, the bill, if passed, would ban licensed mental health providers from practicing conversion therapy on minors. However, as surprised as the general public may be about the bill’s necessity, McMorrow was frank about the difference in tone at the state capital.
“There’s a reason this has been stuck, like a lot of LGBTQ issues,” McMorrow said, referring to the fact that similar legislation has been introduced three times previously and “died” without a committee hearing. “I think there is a lack of acknowledgment sometimes that these issues matter and are important. So, we’re trying really hard this year to push forward.”
And pushing forward means first ensuring that Senate Bill 284 gets a hearing in committee — something left to the discretion of Health Policy and Human Services Committee Chair Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington). Sen. VanderWall was also the chair last term when the bill was introduced and subsequently died.
For those interested in aiding the bill’s passage, McMorrow’s advice is simple: contact representatives and the committee chair.
“Awareness is key,” she said. “You can ask your legislator to do something for you. Their job is to speak on your behalf.”
She suggested calling or sending a letter requesting that they contact the committee chair. And reaching out to VanderWall directly can’t hurt either she said. That can be done by making an effort to schedule time to meet with him, or even another representative or senator, face-to-face. Because “personal stories are really, really powerful.”
“My advice on any of this is there are certain members of the legislature who don’t necessarily believe that LGBTQ issues are important,” McMorrow said. “So, I think it’s really important to pursue any contacts with a level of respect and humanity. You don’t want the person who you’re reaching out to to put their defenses up.”
Other suggestions to bring awareness and put pressure on legislators to fight for this issue from McMorrow include contacting local media organizations, submitting letters to the editor and posting videos of personal stories on social media.
Should VanderWall take up the legislation, the next steps are testimony in committee, potentially having it pass out of committee and then to a full floor vote. Ideally for the bill’s supporters, this would happen in the State House at the same time where Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) introduced the legislation.
As this is pending, the city of Huntington Woods passed a ban of its own — the first in the state. Cities and counties across the nation have such bans in place and are passing them with increasing frequency, too.
“The more stories we hear the better it will be for it to move, because I think we have some members in the legislature who kind of look at this as not a priority, it’s not an important issue,” McMorrow said. “So, we need to push back on that idea.”
Nationwide, state and municipal bans vary in scope. On the federal level, legislation has also been introduced.
This is a developing story and more details will be published as they arise.
Follow these links to find out more about this bill and how to contact local political leaders:
Senate Bill 284: http://gaybe.am/Uo
Contact your state Senator regarding SB284: http://gaybe.am/e6
Contact your state Representative regarding HB4515: http://gaybe.am/4Q
Senator Curt VanderWalll’s online contact form to request that he take up SB284 in committee: http://gaybe.am/SE