Massachusetts Outlaws So-Called 'Conversion Therapy' on Minors

Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker pauses as he signs into law the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act during a ceremony at the Statehouse, Thursday, July 27, 2017, in Boston  (Source:AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

(Edge) Charlie Baker, the Republican governor of Massachusetts, has signed into law a bill that bans the practice of so-called "conversion therapy" on minors, reports local news source MassLive. Baker signed the bill on April 8. 

The practice purports to "convert" LGBTQ people into heterosexuals. MassLive noted that some forms of the practice involve "aversion therapy," which relies on inflicting pain or suffering and attempting to create a mental association between pain and sexual feelings toward people of the same gender. Other forms of "conversion" therapy rely on verbal exchanges or even on prayer. 

Though it outlaws the infliction of the so-called therapy on minors by health care practitioners, it allows religious "counseling" around same-sex desires to continue, MassLive reported.

Reputable mental health professionals have condemned the practice, saying that it doesn't work and could cause harm to people who are subjected to it.

"The fight for this moment has been a long one," Sam Brinton, Head of Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project, told EDGE. "But it's a fight I'm proud to have fought from the first day here in the Commonwealth. 

"This bill, without question, will save the lives of LGBTQ young people who now know that this hateful and discredited practice has no place in Massachusetts," Brinton added.

A growing number of states have moved to legally protect LGBTQ youth from the practice. Recently, state lawmakers in Colorado approved a similar bill. Openly gay Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said on the campaign trail that he would sign such a bill if it landed on his desk. 

With the new law, Massachusetts becomes the 16th state to outlaw "conversion therapy" on minors, reported political news site The Hill. Washington, D.C. also has such protections in place, as do a number of municipalities around the country.

But, noted The Hill, an anti-LGBTQ organization called the Massachusetts Family Institute has now indicated that it might take legal measures to challenge the new law.

Even as the list of states moving to protect LGBTQ youth has grown, anti-gay groups have continued to pursue a multi-faceted agenda designed to punish sexual minorities. One such organization, Liberty Counsel, has launched an attempt to roll back state-level bans on "conversion therapy" on minors

Liberty Counsel - which is designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center - is the same organization that represented former Kentucky country clerk Kim Davis in court after Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The hate group also filed an amicus brief in the case of "Masterpiece Cake" baker Jack Phillips, who won a very narrowly defined Supreme Court victory and saw the decisions against him by lower courts thrown out after he defied Colorado state nondiscrimination laws and refused service to same-sex couples seeking wedding cakes.

Meantime, the pseudo-scientific nature of the so-called "therapy" grows ever clearer. Earlier this year, Dave Matheson — one of the country's foremost practitioners — admitted that the "therapy" didn't work for him, so he's now going to live openly and authentically as a gay man. At the same time, however, Matheson — who once charged a hefty $240 per session — insisted that he "wasn't faking it all those years," and said he was "not condemning mixed-orientation marriages.

"I continue to support the rights of individuals to choose how they will respond to their sexual attractions and identity," added Matheson. "With that freedom, I am now choosing to pursue life as a gay man."

But the fact remains that freedom for people of minority sexual orientation is hardly respected by anti-LGBTQ organizations that continue to attempt to criminalize same-sex relationships and yank marriage away from loving same-sex couples. One of the key points in the arguments advanced by such groups is that being LGBTQ is a "choice" or a condition that can be "cured" or otherwise altered.