Lawmakers in Michigan voted to ban so-called conversion therapy for minors on Wednesday, the state’s latest effort to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ people amid an ongoing assault by GOP legislatures to roll back freedoms for queer Americans.
The state’s Democrat-controlled legislature gave final approval to two bills that would prohibit licensed medical professionals from engaging in the practice. Conversion therapy refers to attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The practice has been widely discredited by mental health and medical groups, who note minors are particularly vulnerable to a range of negative effects linked to such efforts.
The legislation now heads to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) desk. If signed, Michigan would become the 22nd state to ban conversion therapy.
“Banning it is just one less thing that LGBTQ children will have to worry about going forward in Michigan,” Michigan state Rep. Jason Hoskins (D), the first LGBTQ+ person of color elected to the legislature, told The Associated Press this week. He added conversion therapy “works on the false premise that LGBTQ+ children are wrong and they need to be fixed.”
Despite efforts to limit the harm-linked conversion therapy, 15% of LGBTQ youth in Michigan reported being threatened or subjected to such practices in the past year, according to The Trevor Project.
Civil rights groups said the new bills would help protect vulnerable youth, praising the state for rapidly adopting policies to protect LGBTQ residents. The state added LGBTQ protections to its anti-discrimination provisions earlier this year, enshrining permanent protections for the community into law.
“No one should live in fear of being subjected to the discredited and dangerous practice of so-called conversation therapy,” Sarah Warbelow, vice president of legal for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement this week. “While it’s a shame that this practice has been allowed to take place for so long, today’s passage is just another example of how Michigan is rapidly progressing toward being a more inclusive and safe state for LGBTQ+ people.”
The move comes amid a fierce push by Republicans across the nation to limit the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans. State legislatures have introduced hundreds of bills meant to limit access to health care for young trans kids, keep transgender athletes off school sports teams and limit how much teachers can talk about sexuality in classrooms.
The Human Rights Campaign declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people earlier this month, citing the Republican-led efforts as an urgent crisis for Americans.