Rep. David Linsky, Rep. Sarah Peake and Rep. Elizabeth Malia testified before colleagues in favor of banning conversion therapy for minors.

Rep. David Linsky, Rep. Sarah Peake and Rep. Elizabeth Malia testified before colleagues in favor of banning conversion therapy for minors.

Credit: Mike Deehan

Lawmakers Weigh Prohibiting Same-Sex And Trangender "Cures" For Minors

June 6, 2017

Lawmakers on Beacon Hill say now is the time to ban a controversial form of therapy that attempts to change same-sex attraction and transgender expression in minors.
 
So-called "conversion" therapy is seen by opponents as an attempt to "cure" homosexuality or transgender identity expressions.
 
Rep. David Linsky said the authority to ban a form of therapy falls on lawmakers as part of their duty to protect the safety of the public from harm.
 
"We need to protect children, really a vulnerable group of our community, from quite simply, what is quackery. And I mean that in all sincerity" Linsky said.
 
Rep. Kay Khan's bill defines the therapy as practiced by a licensed professional to change sexual behavior or gender expression, or attempt to reduce sexual or romantic feelings to the same sex.
 
The bill states that sanctioned therapy for minors includes providing acceptance, support and understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity, facilitating coping, social support, exploration and development.
 
Opponents say the bill goes too far and limits parents' rights to offer the counseling of their choice to their children.
 
After struggling with his early adult life as a gay man, Frank Agundes of West Springfield sought therapy through Living Hope Ministries to help him in his unwanted attraction to men.
 
"As I grew up, I did not want this same-sex attraction, but I had no help. I am so grateful I found the hope and help I needed even if it was in my mid-twenties. It would have been better as a kid, though, even as an early  teen. Please do not take this away," Agundes said. 
 
The bill failed to pass through the Legislature the past two sessions. Massachusetts Psychological Association executive director Brian Doherty told WGBH News that changes made to this session's version of the bill lead to his group, which represents over 1,700 psychologist in the state, to formally endorse the ban.
 
Doherty said psychologists were concerned that last session's version of the bill could leave clinicians liable in some instances, even when providing clinically appropriate therapy.
 
The bill would also expand state law to require that teachers, clinicians and other mandatory reporters alert officials to any practice of conversation therapy.
 
The bill is supported by 82 members of the House, over half the entire body, and 15 Senators. Even when bills have support from the majority of members, legislation can take several sessions to become a priority of House and Senate leaders and come to a vote.


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