It’s now officially illegal to perform so-called gay “conversion therapy” on minors in Maryland.
The Youth Mental Health Protection Act, which Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed into law Tuesday, threatens mental health or child care practitioners with disciplinary action if they are found attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of anyone under the age of 18.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the new law makes Maryland “a better place for countless young people.”
“No child should ever be subjected to the abusive practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy,’” he said in a statement. “This dangerous and inhumane form of child abuse has no basis in science and is uniformly rejected by every major mental health and child welfare organization.”
Conversion therapy is ineffective, according to several national health organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The APA, in particular, criticizes gay conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, for offering a “serious potential to harm young people.”
“The potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient,” according to the association, which says conversion therapy programs tell participants that “homosexuals are lonely, unhappy individuals who never achieve acceptance or satisfaction.”
Young people who are rejected by their families over their sexual orientation or gender identity are more than eight times more likely to attempt suicide than youth from accepting families, according to the Trevor Project, a pro-LGBTQ advocacy group that is working to ban conversion therapy across the U.S.
Maryland joins a growing number of states that have adopted similar legislation to protect LGBTQ youth. Connecticut, California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Washington state and the District of Columbia have all banned conversion therapy; New Hampshire and Hawaii recently passed protections that are awaiting approval from their governors.
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