Michigan has banned the use of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ on LGBTQ+ youth, becoming the 22nd US state to outlaw the harmful practice.
“As a mom of a member of the community and a proud, lifelong ally, I’m grateful that today we’re banning the horrific practice of conversion therapy in Michigan,” Governor Gretchen Whitmer wrote on Twitter on 26 July.
“In doing so, we are taking action to make Michigan a more welcoming, inclusive place.”
The legislation, which was signed on 26 July, defines ‘conversion therapy’ as any practice or treatment by a mental health professional that seeks to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Approximately 15 per cent of LGBTQ+ minors in Michigan have been threatened with or subjected to ‘conversion therapy’ as of last year, according to The Trevor Project.
Kasey Suffredini, the organisation’s Vice President of Advocacy and Government Affairs, said: “LGBTQ young people deserve to live authentically as who they are and the passage of these bills profoundly reaffirms this fundamental value and serves as a beacon of hope for LGBTQ young people in Michigan and beyond.
“We applaud the state lawmakers for taking swift action in implementing these protections and building on the incredible bipartisan momentum of similar advances this year like in Minnesota to eliminate the harms of conversion ‘therapy’ nationwide.”
As a mom of a member of the community and a proud, lifelong ally, I’m grateful that today we’re banning the horrific practice of conversion therapy in Michigan.
In doing so, we are taking action to make Michigan a more welcoming, inclusive place. pic.twitter.com/5r5Ts3OgyO
— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) July 26, 2023
The state’s ban was approved by the Michigan Senate in June at a vote of 21-15, with one Republican siding with the Democrats.
Republicans opposing the bill argued that the legislation could interfere with the work of mental health professionals, though the law does not prohibit counselling that provides assistance to those transitioning.
The UK government has been promising a ban since 2018
‘Conversion therapy’ is typically seen as any attempt at changing or suppressing a person’s sexuality or gender identity and often involves techniques such as intensive prayer and, in some cases, electroshock therapy.
It has been discredited by health experts and bodies all over the world, including the National Health Service and the World Health Organisation, with some comparing it to torture.
A commitment to banning it was first made by Theresa May’s administration in 2018, though what this will look like in effect has been the subject of intense debate in the UK since then.
Boris Johnson’s government made a number of backtracks to these promises, resulting in fear from the LGBTQ+ community that the legislation would not include protections for all.
The draft bill is, however, said to cover attempts to change both someone’s sexuality and gender identity – though campaigners remain concerned that the ‘consent’ loophole makes the legislation redundant.
There are also growing concerns over why making the bill law has taken so long.