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Lawmakers renew efforts to ban conversion therapy for Michigan minors

A state senator says mental health professionals should not work to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender preference, a practice she calls abusive.

LANSING, Mich. — A Michigan lawmaker who wants to prohibit conversion therapy for minors says the controversial practice is more akin to abuse and has already been banned in 20 states.

“It’s really to protect our kids,’’ said Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak. “We know how damaging this practice is. It’s been decried by every mental health organization in existence.’’

McMorrow sponsored a bipartisan Senate bill that would prohibit mental health professionals from engaging in conversion therapy with a minor.

Conversion therapy means “any practice or treatment’’ that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

 A companion bill has also been introduced in the Michigan House.

Conversion therapy does not include counseling that assists a person going through a gender transition or counseling “that provides acceptance, support or understanding,’’ according to the Senate and House bills.

Similar measures have been introduced in recent years but did not advance. McMorrow last introduced a conversion therapy bill in 2019.

McMorrow says she has heard from parents and constituents about therapists who misrepresented the treatment they provide. 

“We’ve heard from parents who say I have a child who identifies as LGBTQ, this is out of my wheelhouse, right? So, I’m looking for a therapist, I want to help them navigate what is a challenging time,’’ McMorrow said.

“Parents have felt misled by thinking that they are seeking out therapy, a beneficial service for their child and being led down the wrong direction,’’ she said.

“You cannot change somebody who is LGBTQ into somebody who is straight,’’ McMorrow said. “So even from the premise of what the therapy purports to be able to do, it’s false.’’

Since 2013, 20 states have enacted bans on conversion therapy, as well as dozens of municipalities. Virginia last year became the latest state to join the fold.

"Conversion therapy sends the harmful message that there is something wrong with who you are," Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, said in a statement last year.

Conversion therapy has been criticized by numerous health associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association.

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