Michigan bans conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ minors

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivers her State of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate, Jan. 25, 2023, at the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich.

Conversion therapy for minors will soon be illegal throughout the state of Michigan after Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday signed two bills banning the practice in the state.

One bill, H.B. 4616, will subject any mental health care provider caught engaging in conversion therapy — a debunked pseudoscientific program its practitioners claim will change an individual’s sexual orientation — to disciplinary action, including suspension or revocation of their license. The other bill, H.B. 4617, makes amendments to the state’s mental health code, including adding a definition of conversion therapy to the code. H.B. 4617 excludes counseling that assists individuals undergoing gender transitions. Both bills will take effect in October, 90 days after they were enacted.

“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,” Whitmer said in a post on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter. “In doing so, we are taking action to make Michigan a more welcoming, inclusive place.”

Michigan is the 22nd U.S. state to outlaw conversion therapy, according to the Trevor Project, a nonprofit that focuses on mental health support for LGBTQ+ youth. Minnesota passed a ban on conversion therapy that Democratic Gov. Tim Walz signed in April.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, conversion therapy is not only ineffective but actually harmful to LGBTQ+ youth and can cause or make worse mental health conditions in the individual receiving treatment. The American Medical Association has stated that the practice may increase suicidal ideation and that one study showed 77% of those who underwent conversion therapy reported adverse effects, including depression, anxiety and lowered self-esteem.

The Trevor Project called conversion therapy a discredited practice.

“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,” Kasey Suffredini, a vice president of advocacy and government affairs for the Trevor Project, said in a statement on June 27 when the Michigan Legislature first passed H.B. 4616 and H.B. 4617. “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.”

Whitmer had already signed an executive order in 2021 banning the use of state or federal funds for conversion therapy.

In June, Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced legislation to ban conversion therapy at the federal level. The three have previously introduced bans on conversion therapy in four previous congressional sessions, all of which died in committee.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.