Potential conversion therapy ban in Michigan receives mixed testimony ⋆

Doctors and lawmakers gave testimony before a state Senate panel on Tuesday in support of legislation to ban conversion therapy on minors in Michigan, which was met with concerns from other legislators and organizations.

Under Senate Bills 348 and 349, licensed health professionals that attempt to coerce those below the age of 18 out of their gender expression or sexuality in order to conform with heterosexuality would be subject to losing their license. State Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) is the lead sponsor for both bills.

Lawmakers heard input about the bills in the Senate Housing and Human Services Committee. The legislators on the Senate panel did not vote to move the legislation out of committee on Tuesday.

Rep. Jason Hoskins (D-Southfield), who is sponsoring the House’s version of the bills, talked about the importance of acceptance in a child’s life.

Rep. Jason Hoskins speaks at a bill signing ceremony for Senate Bill 4, which expands the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections for the LGBTQ+ community, on March 16, 2023. (Andrew Roth/)

Hoskins said some parents might be inclined to pursue conversion therapy for their child due to the fear that their child might face discrimination or violence for being different, but there is no “cure” to being gay as it isn’t an illness.

“You see the practice of conversion therapy is rooted in the belief that there’s something wrong with you and that it needs to be fixed…This type of thinking allows discrimination to flourish,” Hoskins said. “As someone who is nearly 40 years old now and has been gay for a very long time and is thriving…I’m doing just fine, and no one in the LGBTQ+ community needs to be cured.”

Sens. John Damoose (R-Harbor Springs) and Jonathan Lindsey (R-Sturgis) said the language that defines conversion therapy in the legislation leaves much to be desired and opens doctors to having to fight disciplinary action for doing their jobs.

Damoose and Lindsey asked if practitioners being able to ask questions or offer suggestions would be seen as coercion, when they as well-intentioned care providers want to make sure children understand what they’re feeling.

“One of my concerns with this legislation actually is it creates a situation where certain things are off the table in terms of even asking,” Lindsey said. “Can a mental health professional ask a follow-up question: Are you sure?”

McMorrow said there’s a big difference between asking a question and coercing someone and telling them they’re wrong for identifying a certain way.

Among the cards read in in opposition to the bills was Rebecca Mastee of the Michigan Catholic Conference. Notably, the legislation pertains only to licensed care providers and would not bar individuals from securing services from unlicensed individuals and organizations like churches.

Sarah Kiperman, a nationally certified school psychologist and professor of psychology at Wayne State University, said youth coming out as LGBTQ+ in environments that invalidate their identities can harm them.

“For many kids, not being able to be themselves will metaphorically suffocate them … which can lead to an internalized sense of inadequacy and manifests as clinical levels of anxiety and depression and suicidal ideation which, at some point, youth may choose to escape these conditions by resorting to homelessness or suicide,” Kiperman said.

Kiperman noted there isn’t evidence that conversion therapy has the desired effect of creating “straight” kids and is condemned by major health organizations.

The American Psychiatric Association opposes conversion therapy and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry writes that, “…there is evidence that such interventions are harmful. As a result, ‘conversion therapies’ should not be part of any behavioral health treatment of children and adolescents.’”



authored by Anna Liz Nichols
First published at https%3A%2F%2Fmichiganadvance.com%2F2023%2F06%2F06%2Fpotential-conversion-therapy-ban-in-michigan-receives-mixed-testimony%2F

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