Anti-conversion therapy bills pass Michigan House
Legislation to ban licensed health professionals in Michigan from engaging in conversion therapy with minors passed the Michigan House this week.
Conversion therapy is the discredited practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Representative Felicia Brabec (D-Ann Arbor) co-sponsors the bills. She said therapists should be supportive of patients finding their identity.
“That is the responsibility of a therapist. The responsibility of a therapist is not to harm or to intentionally inflict pain upon someone because of a stated identity. That is not therapy,” Brabec said.
But ahead of the vote, a handful of Republican lawmakers spoke out against the bill package.
That includes Representative Jaime Greene (R-Richmond). She said the legislation is unnecessary because the law already bars extreme methods associated with conversion therapy, like electro-shock treatment.
“No one supports the use of abuse in therapy," she said.
To the bill's supporters, that's not enough: They say any form of conversion therapy is harmful and should be prohibited.
Greene also argued the new legislation is too broad and could deter therapists from working on other issues.
"In reality, these bills are specifically directed at talk therapy and are an effort to censure mental health professionals,” Greene said.
Republicans expressed concern the bills would infringe on speech protected by the First Amendment — courts have consistently ruled that similar bans do not violate the constitution — and brought up fears over what the bills would mean for professionals who provide gender-affirming care to trans youth — though the bills explicitly say they do not apply to those practitioners.
“Conversion therapy does not include counseling that provides assistance to an individual undergoing a gender transition, counseling that provides acceptance, support, or understanding of an individual,” the text reads.
Brabec, who has a background as a mental health professional, said there might be a conflation of issues at play.
“We are trying to stop this very, again, damaging, menacing, unethical practice and our kids from being impacted by that. That’s not gender-affirming therapy,” Brabec said.
The bills passed the House of Representatives along party lines.
Meanwhile, two similar bills are making their way through the Senate.