Gov. Whitmer signs law to make Michigan 22nd state to ban conversion therapy
- Michigan is now 22nd in the nation to ban conversion therapy by mental health professionals
- The ban will not apply to religious institutions
- Advocates applaud the law as more protection for LGBTQ youths; Republicans are opposed
LANSING — Michigan is now the 22nd state to ban mental health professionals from performing conversion therapy on minors — a practice aimed to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the legislation into law Wednesday.
“Today, we are banning the horrific practice of conversion therapy in Michigan and ensuring this is a state where you can be who you are,” Whitmer said in a Wednesday statement.
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About 373,000 of Michigan’s 10 million residents identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, according to a 2020 estimate by the University of California Los Angeles Williams Institute.
The ban prohibits mental health professionals from offering treatments to children to change their gender identity or sexual orientation and disallows the state from allocating funding to support the practice.
The law does not ban religious institutions, such as churches and certain schools, from offering similar practices. Nationally, roughly 57,000 teenagers received such therapy from religious or spiritual advisers, according to a 2019 study by researchers at UCLA.
Advocates and Democrats cheered the decision Wednesday, arguing the law will protect and support LGBTQ youths. Experts have said conversion therapy is associated with depression and anxiety and increases the risk of suicide or self-harm among LGBTQ youths, who already face a higher risk of mental health issues.
“Michigan is paving the way for a brighter and more inclusive future for everyone who lives, works and visits here,” Erin Knott, executive director of LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Michigan, said in a Wednesday statement.
Republican lawmakers argued the law would force mental health professionals out of the industry. Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, said last month the law would “rewrite” sex education because it contradicts the idea of sex based on someone’s biological features assigned at birth.
“I have encyclopedias from 1980 and … it describes two sexes based on their biological characteristics,” he said during debate on the bill in June. “Are they suddenly simply wrong?”
The ban is the latest effort by Michigan Democrats — who in January took control of the state Legislature for the first time in 40 years — to expand LGBTQ protections. Earlier this year, state lawmakers also passed laws to shield LGBTQ communities from discrimination under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and to protect them from hate crimes.
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