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Mass. legislature considers proposed ban on conversion therapy for minors

Wednesday, July 17, 2013
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BOSTON — A proposed measure to ban controversial gay-to-straight “conversion therapy” on minors in received its first public scrutiny in Massachusetts on Tuesday afternoon in a session of the state legislature’s Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities.

The bill would prohibit any licensed professional in Massachusetts from engaging in any practice that seeks impose a change in the “sexual orientation or gender identity” of anyone under 18.

Any licensed professional violating the ban would be subject to discipline that could include the suspension or revocation of their license to practice.

The ban, sponsored by Medford Democratic state Rep. Carl Sciortino, would apply to psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, psychiatric nurses and other mental health and human services professionals.

“Passage of this bill will send an important message that sexual orientation and gender identity do not need changing. Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is normal and healthy,” said Ben Klein, a senior attorney for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), in testimony before the committee.

Also appearing before state lawmakers were representatives from LGBT advocacy groups MassEquality and Fenway Health.

The practice of conversion therapy, also referred to as “reparative” therapy, has been discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations.

An August 2009 report by the American Psychological Association Task Force on “Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation,” stated that “efforts to change someone’s sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve major risks of harm to an individual both mentally and physically, contrary to the claims from professionals who subscribe to the practice.”

Most healthcare professionals now agree that same-sex attraction, and orientation(s) are considered normal and positive variants of human sexuality which don’t indicate mental or developmental disorders.

Last month, Exodus International, the nation’s oldest and largest Christian ministry devoted to performing the therapy announced that it is shuttering its operations after more than three decades.

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