House votes to ban so-called conversion therapy

Representative Mike Connolly joined his Cambridge and Somerville colleagues this afternoon to vote in support of H.140, An Act relative to abusive practices to change sexual orientation and gender identity in minors, legislation he co-sponsored to ban the practice of so-called "conversion therapy" on minors in Massachusetts.

This bill prohibits licensed health care providers including physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, allied mental health and human service professionals, marriage and family therapists, rehabilitation counselors, mental health counselors, and educational psychologists from advertising for or engaging in conversion therapy with minors.

"I am proud to cast my vote to end this harmful practice which has no scientific basis and is rooted in bigotry," Rep. Connolly said.

Conversion therapy is a coercive and harmful practice that attempts to reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction or transgender identity through shame and aversive conditioning. The American Psychiatric Association outlines associated risks for youth who engage in conversion therapy including: depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior. A licensed healthcare provider who violates this ban will be subject to discipline buy their licensing board which may include suspension or the revocation of their license, and shall be considered to have violated the unfair or deceptive act section of the Consumer Protection Statute.

The bill will not prohibit medically sound therapeutic practices such as providing support, acceptance, and understanding of a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity, or providing information about safe sex practices.

Rep. Connolly would like to recognize the bill sponsor, Rep. Kay Khan, for her leadership on this issue, as well as former Somerville Rep. Carl Sciortino for first introducing this legislation and the coalition to ban conversion therapy, which includes but is not limited to: Mass Equality, AIDS Action, the ACLU of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Psychological Association, and the Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

The legislation passed on a roll call vote of 147 in favor, 8 opposed, and now moves to the Senate for further consideration.