One Michigan lawmaker has been attempting to make “conversion therapy” illegal in the state for a number of years, but he met with little success as a Democrat in a Republican-dominated legislature — now, that may all be about to change.
In his first attempt, Rep. Adam Zemke (D-55) introduced HB 5703 about two years ago to prohibit the use of conversion therapy — a reprehensible and professionally discredited practice which attempts to change gender identity or sexual orientation through hurtful mind games. Under the cloak of faux medicine, quacks and charlatans target vulnerable teens and young adults for psychological abuse, often with the trust and money of their families. The Human Rights Campaign asserts that for this young group conversion therapy can lead to “depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide.”
Rep. Zemke’s 2014 legislation died in the Health Policy Committee with no further action.
Now, with some bipartisan support, a new legislative package will hopefully gain some traction in the Michigan House in 2016. Rep. Mike Calton (R-87) is sponsoring one bill, and co-sponsoring its companion piece, with the goal of eliminating the disreputable practice of conversion therapy on minors and of making violations subject to professional disciplinary action.
A number of other states have already passed similar laws — all which have withstood judicial scrutiny, including the U.S. Supreme Court twice allowing lower court rulings to stand which struck down challenges to these laws. And last year, a New Jersey court found a conversion therapy provider liable for consumer fraud.
In that light, several months ago, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a consumer fraud complaint against People Can Change, a group promoting conversion therapy. Religious organizations are behind the push to intimidate young LGBT individuals, with conversion therapy being their license to bully — but, their snake oil approach is certainly not proven to be an efficacious “treatment.” Litigation is pending.
Groups opposing conversion therapy are too numerous to fully list here, but they include the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for Marriage and Family, American College of Physicians, American Counseling Association, American Medical Association, American Psychoanalytic Association, American Psychological Association…the list goes on and on.
Both new bills have been referred to the Regulatory Reform Committee. Neither Calton, nor Zemke, or any other sponsor is a member of that committee. Let’s hope the issue gets its due respect.
The tide of human rights is rising, and this wave appears to be of the same strong current that brought our nation marriage equality just a few short months ago.