The issue of ‘conversion therapy’ (a form of therapy, usually faith-based, that aims to convert gay youth into straight people) has been controversial from the start. And this certainly isn’t the first time a legislator in Michigan has tried to introduce laws making conversion therapy illegal. So when State Senator Mallory McMorrow and State Representative Yousef Rabhi introduced Senate Bill 284 and House Bill 4515, it came as no surprise. What will be interesting though, is to see what kind of response they get from the people of Michigan.
What exactly do they hope to achieve with these bills?
The point, according to McMorrow and Rabhi, is to make it illegal for anyone to force a child to change their sexual orientation or gender. “Eradicating conversion therapy will send a clear message that Michigan is a place where discrimination will not be tolerated.” McMorrow says. “If we want to attract and retain talented, hardworking people in our communities, we need to ensure that our state is welcoming and open to all.”
Conversion therapy is child abuse, says another Senator
“We must label conversion therapy as what it is: child abuse.” says State Senator Jeremy Moss, who co-sponsored Senate Bill 384. “There is no amount of junk science that will change someone’s orientation. The dangerous practices that some adults employ on vulnerable children cannot be tolerated.” A news release put out by the Senate democrats echoed this perspective, pointing out that conversion therapy was known to lead to depression, low self esteem, substance abuse, and even suicide.
Many other U.S. states have already banned conversion therapy
If these bills are passed, Michigan will join sixteen other U.S. states that have already made conversion therapy illegal. Those states include California, New Jersey, Illinois, Nevada and Delaware, with California passing the very first law of this kind in the US. Conversion therapy, which is sometimes referred to as “reparative therapy,” is a widely discredited practice that often involves attempting to shame a gay or bisexual person into becoming heterosexual. It is based on the idea that homosexuality is a mental illness or a spiritual perversion that can be cured.
This legal change could mean a bitter fight for religious groups.
Conversion therapy is currently most often practiced by church groups and religious centers. Based on the idea that God does not approve of homosexuality, or that it is morally unacceptable, many pastors and religious counsellors offer conversion therapy to members with LGBTQ children. Michigan protects the religious rights of all people, and this legal change could be the start of a very bitter fight, with faith-based organizations being accused of child abuse, and the LGBTQ community being accused of violating people’s religious freedoms.
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