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Bills banning conversion therapy for minors head to governor's desk

Democratic Senator Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) speaks during session Tuesday.
Colin Jackson
Democratic Senator Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) speaks during session Tuesday.

Michigan bills to stop licensed health professionals from conducting conversion therapy with minors got an OK from the state Legislature Tuesday.

Conversion therapy is the medically discredited practice of trying to change someone’s sexuality or gender identity.

Studies have linked it to higher suicide rates among LGBTQ youth.

Senator Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) said conversion therapy leads to lasting damage — calling it “child abuse.”

“Because you find out the hard way after treatment, after treatment, after treatment, that your feelings are wrong and that you’re broken, and you have to suppress them," McMorrow said. "When you find out that you can’t, you think you’re more broken than you already are.”

Senator Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), the only openly gay man in the state Senate, echoed her point during his floor speech. He said conversion therapy only ends up harming children rather than helping them.

“The person goes through the journey alone," Moss said. "There is no therapist in the world that can direct you toward the end result. But certainly it is painful enough and we shouldn’t add to that pain.”

The legislation passed the Senate Tuesday along close party lines, with one Republican crossing the aisle.

Representative John Damoose (R-Harbor Springs) was among those who voted no. He said he agrees certain practices that have been tied to conversion therapy, like electro-shock treatment, should be banned. But he has a problem with the bill’s language.

“These bills so broadly define conversion therapy that they stray into dictating thought and words that in the course of treatment are otherwise highly tailored to an individual patient’s circumstances and needs,” Damoose said.

The legislation defines conversion therapy as “any practice or treatment by a mental health professional that seeks to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity." It also specifies that counseling for people going through gender transitions, to provide acceptance and support, or facilitate coping in a neutral way, does not count as conversion therapy.

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