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Michigan set to become 22nd state to ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ youths

Democratic Sens. Jeremy Moss of Southfield and Mallory McMorrow of Royal Oak blasted Republicans for arguing that a bill banning conversion therapy would promote gender reassignment. (Bridge photo by Yue Stella Yu)
  • Michigan Senate passes conversion therapy ban on mental health professionals
  • Republicans argue the legislation would limit mental health workers from treating minors ‘confused’ about gender identity
  • Democrats call the comments ‘fearmongering’

LANSING — In a win for LGBTQ advocates, state senators voted 21-15 Tuesday night to ban conversion therapy by mental health professionals to change the gender identity or sexual orientation of minors.

HB4616 and HB4617 now head to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has railed against conversion therapy and in 2021 prohibited state funds from being used to assist such therapy for minors

Michigan is now poised to become the 22nd state to ban conversion therapy, a practice that researchers, experts and LGBTQ advocates say increases the risk of mental health issues and suicide attempts among LGBTQ youths


Democrats have argued the bills would ban a practice that has scarred the mental health of LGBTQ youths. Republicans argued minors could be confused about their gender identity and would use the bill to access gender-affirming care, which they deemed dangerous. 

Most Senate Republicans — except Sen. Mark Huizenga of Walker — voted against the bills. 

Sen. Thomas Albert, R-Lowell, argued the bills would “pigeonhole” mental health professionals into saying “yes” to minors who want to transition into a gender that is different from their sex at birth.

“Whatever the child wants to be, they shall be, and there shall be no conversation by the mental health professional otherwise,” Albert said.

Republicans unsuccessfully offered amendments to prohibit puberty blockers for minors and to allow mental health professionals to discuss with minors their “biological sex at birth.”

Sen. John Damoose, R-Harbor Springs, failed to push through a substitute Tuesday modeled after a similar law in Utah. The substitute would have exempted mental health professionals who are also parents and grandparents of the minors and all other mental health workers who are not intended to change the minor’s sexual orientation and gender identity.

Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, argued that gender-affirming care is too “new” for society and would “rewrite” past sex education overnight.

“I have encyclopedias from 1980 and … it describes two sexes based on their biological characteristics,” he said. “Are they suddenly simply wrong?”

Studies have shown that teenagers feeling conflicted with their sex at birth who received gender-affirming care saw a significant decrease in depressive symptoms and other mental health issues, according to the American Psychological Association

Democrats called Republicans’ arguments a fearmongering tactic to undermine legislation aimed at protecting LGBTQ youths. 

“There is no medical treatment with a zero percent regret rate,” said Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield.

“Hearing a bunch of people, a bunch of straight people in the Senate lecture me about what the journey of an LGBTQ person is the exact reason why we should be banning conversion therapy,” Moss, the first openly gay senator in Michigan, said Tuesday.

Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak, called the Republican comments “so offensive and so horrifying.”

“The fearmongering from the other side of the aisle is why the rates of anxiety, depression and suicide among those who are LGBTQ are as high as they are,” McMorrow said.

“These are kids. How dare you?” she asked. 

The legislation would not affect religious groups that conduct conversion therapy. Roughly 57,000 teenagers ages 13-17 nationwide received conversion therapy from religious or spiritual advisers before they turn 18, according to a University of California Los Angeles study in 2019.

As of 2020, roughly 3,950 teens ages 13 to 17 identified as transgender in Michigan, according to the Williams Institute of UCLA. Nationally, nearly half of LGBTQ youths seriously considered suicide in 2021, according to a survey conducted by LGBTQ advocacy group The Trevor Project.

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