Maine lawmakers are divided over a bill which would ban “conversion therapy,” also known as reparative therapy, for LGBT minors, and debate has become heated.
In fact, the Bangor Daily News described debate in the State House as hitting an intensity level not witnessed in recent times.
The bill, L.D. 912, “proposes to amend the current law to establish that practices or treatments that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity are prohibited for certain professionals licensed under the Maine Revised Statutes….”
It also establishes penalties for those who conduct conversion therapy.
Speeches on the house floor last week were exceptionally emotional, with legislators even yelling over each other, according to the Bangor Daily News.
Supporters shared personal and professional stories; opponents said the bill wasn’t needed and went against family rights and freedom of speech, the newspaper reported.
Rep. Roger Reed (R-Carmel, ME) read a constituent’s email that implied that being a homosexual is “unnatural.”
“This is an attempt on behalf of the LGBT community to legitimize the unnatural inclinations acceptable to society today over the natural inclination as presented in the Bible,” he read. The paper reported that supporters of the bill shouted over him.
Rep. Ryan Fecteau (D-Biddeford, ME) sponsored the bill.
“Conversion therapy is not counseling, for example, that seeks to assist an individual in coping, understanding, or exploring who they are,” he wrote in a statement to CBN News.
“What the bill does is prohibits a licensed practitioner from pre-determining a minor’s sexual orientation and imposing interventions to convince the individual that they are something other than what they self-determine is who they are,” he continued.
“The harms caused by the therapy are well documented,” Fecteau later said in the statement. “As a result, it is important to ensure that the state is not licensing individuals who deploy a methodology deemed harmful to the client.”
“I want to protect them (young people) from the harm that would come from a trusted professional telling them, one way or another, that they are broken, and that the core truth of who they are is wrong and even disgusting,” Fecteau said during debate in the State House.
Opponents said the bill goes against parental rights.
“This legislation would take away rights from parents who should be decision makers in terms of their children,” Rep. Susan Austin (R-Gray, ME), said, the newspaper reported. “Parents have a constitutional right to make decisions about raising their children.”
“It’s an attempt to define conversion therapy as any efforts to either reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction and also dealing with gender confusion, to deal with it in any other perspective other than it being immutable,” Carroll Conley of the Christian Civic League of Maine told CBN News.
“I’ve been the executive director for eight years, and probably, other than the redefinition of marriage here in 2012, it’s the most destructive piece of legislation that I’ve seen,” he went on to say.
Conley says L.D. 912’s conversion therapy ban is part of a national movement.
The Associated Press reports that at least a dozen states have passed bills that ban conversion therapy on minors.
The State Senate passed an amended version of the bill known as the Austin Amendment, which protects “talk therapy” from the ban, defining “conversion therapy as any aversive practice or treatment that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity and clarifies that talk therapy is not considered conversion therapy.”
The amended version goes on to define “aversive practice or treatment as any practice or treatment that is intended to induce changes in behavior through unpleasant stimuli or punishment.”
The State House, however, ended up voting against the Austin Amendment.
“The bill now goes back to the Senate, but since the legislative session was unexpectedly adjourned last night (Wednesday), we are not totally sure of the status of LD 912,” Conley wrote in an email on behalf of the Christian Civic League of Maine. “Our prayer is that it will die between the Senate and House.”
Conley hopes people nationwide will lift up his state in prayer.
“Pray for us in Maine; pray that we can effectively finish this; pray for the courage of Governor LePage if it does come down to a veto,” he told CBN News.
“We appreciate the prayers of our brothers and sisters across the country that we be effective advocates, and that as we advocate for God’s truth on this issue that we do it in a way that would draw men towards the truth rather than repel them,” Conley continued.