Massachusetts State House.
Policy Library

There’s Still Time to Protect MA Youth from Conversion Therapy

June 07, 2018

Nearly three years ago, the BBA endorsed legislation that would ban the use of “conversion therapy” on minors by licensed health care professionals. Since that initial endorsement, the BBA has kept you posted on our continued advocacy, presenting testimony at hearings and sending letters urging the Commonwealth to stand up for its LGBTQ+ youth. And last month, we asked you to join us, and MassEquality, in urging for these important protections, requesting you to reach out to your own representatives in honor of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

As a brief refresher, this legislation is important because it offers protection for minors from a practice that medical and child welfare experts agree does not align with current scientific understandings of sexual orientation and gender identity and is not only ineffective and misleading but downright unsafe. The American Psychological AssociationAmerican Medical AssociationAmerican Academy of PediatricsNational Association of Social Workers, and the Pan American Health Organization, among many others, have all issued policy statements condemning the practice. These statements make clear that conversion therapy is unnecessary as it attempts to “cure” something that is not an illness or disorder, is ineffective in bringing about the “change” sought and poses a high risk of seriously harming patients, especially minors.

Under the bill, adults would still be free to choose conversion therapy, no matter how ill-advised, for themselves. But given the substantial likelihood of serious psychological and social harm to minors who are subjected to conversion therapy, it is essential that they are protected from the imposition of this misguided treatment at the direction of their parents or guardians.

The American Bar Association, in its Resolution 112, has also urged that “governments… enact laws that prohibit state-licensed professionals from using conversion therapy on minors,” based on the recognition that LGBTQ+ people should enjoy the basic right “to be free from attempts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.” The BBA has a long history of defending principles of non-discrimination and equal protection, and we are proud to stand with these national groups and local organizations like MassEquality and GLAD in advocating for these important protections for MA LGBTQ+ youth.

While the bill has not yet moved, there is still time to ensure Massachusetts youth have access to these protections. If you haven’t done so already, please call your State Representative, and ask them to do two things:

1) Contact the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez, and urge him to report favorably on the Conversion Therapy Ban Bill (H.1190) as soon as possible.

2) Contact Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, and ask him to make H.1190 a priority and to bring the bill to a vote during the current legislative session, ending July 31.

For more information on just why this legislation is so important, feel free to read our recent letter to the House Speaker and Mass Equality’s handy fact sheet. MassEquality also produced a draft email in support of the legislation, and you can also reference this sample phone script produced for the May 17 call to action. Just make sure to reference updated bill number H.1190 and mention that that you are calling in honor of Pride Month instead!

To date, eleven states, including New Jersey, California, Vermont, and Connecticut, have passed legislation barring the use of conversion therapy on minors, and it’s time for Massachusetts to join these ranks!

—Alexa Daniel
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association