Senator Lesser Votes to Ban "Conversion Therapy" in Massachusetts

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser voted with the State Senate on Thursday to pass a bill that bans the controversial practice of “conversion therapy” in Massachusetts.

Medical and mental health professionals have long sounded the alarm about practices that have been billed as “counseling” or “therapy” but are in reality aimed at convincing young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) that they are heterosexual.

In response, the bill passed by the Senate, S. 2187, An Act relative to abusive practices to change sexual orientation and gender identity in minors, prohibits any licensed mental health professional from forcing minors to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. It also defines advertisements promoting conversion therapy as deceptive practices violating consumer protections.

Sen. Lesser was a co-sponsor of the bill, and has been a supporter since he first entered the Senate in 2015.

“So-called conversion ‘therapy’ is not a medically recommended practice, and in fact has been shown to be terribly harmful to minors. It has no basis in science, and it has no valid place in our state. It is long past time that Massachusetts join the eight other states, and the District of Columbia, that have ended this practice. Our response to young people who are struggling with their identity should not be to tell them they are wrong for who they are. Our response should not be to try to change them,” said Sen. Lesser.

Minors subjected to conversion therapy experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, self-destructive behavior and suicide, according to Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Similar bans have been passed in California, Connecticut, Oregon, Nevada, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Illinois, Vermont and New Mexico.

The Senate will now negotiate a final version of the bill with the House, which passed a slightly different version earlier this month, before sending the final bill to the Governor’s desk.

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Ryan Migeed