Boston, MA – On Wednesday, June 27th, the MA house debated, and ultimately approved, a bill which proposed the prohibition of conversion therapy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other non-heterosexual, non-cisgender minors. Conversion therapy is a blanket term describing several types of treatments which attempt to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of an individual through specific methods. The aim is generally to “convert” a patient from another sexual orientation to heterosexuality, and/or to “convert” this person’s gender identity back to the one they were assigned at birth. Common techniques used in this practice include hypnosis and aversion therapy (associating an unpleasant stimulus with the “undesired” sexuality, such as nausea or a shock).

Since certain conversion therapies, such as aversion therapies, are more physically intense than others, there are some who argued that only these methods of practice should be banned. Representative Marc Lombadro (R) argued that the types of conversion therapies to ban are only the ones that cause children physical pain. Still, many citizens came out either in full support or in full opposition of the bill. Those in favor of the ban claim that the treatments are dangerous and un-scientific. They allege that conversion therapy leads to higher rates of suicide in LBGT+ youth, can contribute to depression, and is ineffective in legitimately altering its patients’ identities. National institutions such as the American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association have discredited conversion therapies. Those against the bill argue that a ban would limit free speech and be an example of the government overstepping its boundaries in the regulation of medicine. They contend that if sexual and gender identities exist on a spectrum, they are therefore malleable and should be allowed the possibility of alteration through therapy. Several politicians, such as US Vice President, Mike Pence, have come out in support of legal conversion therapy.

The MA House ultimately moved to approve the ban, in a 137-14 vote. This bill will now move to the MA State Senate for further consideration. If this eventually becomes law, Massachusetts will be the 14th state to prohibit conversion therapy.