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Bills to ban conversion therapy heard in Senate committee

 someone waving a pride flag in front of a building
Ian Taylor

Legislation to ban Michigan licensed medical professionals from engaging in conversion therapy with minors has received committee hearings this week.

Conversion therapy is the discredited practice of working to change one’s sexuality.

Senator Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) chairs a committee that heard testimony over the bills Tuesday. He called the bills a step forward for public health protection.

“One of the state’s responsibilities is to make sure that when we’re licensing medical professionals, that we don’t license them to perform discredited medical practices, to perform dangerous medical practices,” Irwin said.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Republican lawmakers brought up concerns that the bills would define conversion therapy too broadly.

Sen. John Damoose (R-Harbor Springs) asked about potential gray areas within the bills.

“I’d imagine there’s broad acceptance in this room on the overt practices like electric shocks or … abusive things like making someone carry rocks but some of these things are hard to legislate, you know?" Damoose asked during the hearing. "Things like intent and words, ideas.”

Similar legislation had come up in past years but didn’t advance under previous Republican-controlled legislatures.

There are also House mirror bills to the Senate ones considered Tuesday.

Sponsors of both versions testified together before the committee.

Representative Jason Hoskins (D-Southfield) was among them. He said the fact that the bills received a hearing is a good sign.

“I am happy that we’re finally taking up this legislation to really get rid of a very discredited practice, a practice that every major medical and mental health organization has said causes irreparable harm in some cases to children,” Hoskins said.

The House bills are scheduled for their own hearing Wednesday.

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