Maryland Bans Reparative Therapy for Minors

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by David Nussman  •  •  May 16, 2018   

Blocks health professionals from helping children with unwanted same-sex attraction

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. ( - A new law in Maryland is banning reparative therapy for minors with unwanted same-sex attraction.

Governor Larry Hogan signed the bill into law on Tuesday. Titled the "Youth Mental Health Protection Act," the measure prohibits child care workers and mental health professionals from offering counseling to minors who wish to get rid of homosexual attraction.

Supporters of the bill are championing it as an affirmation of gay rights. They claim it will block parents from forcing their same-sex-attracted children to attend therapy sessions, allegedly in an effort to "fix" them.

But the bill's opponents fear that the law will pressure minors who want reparative therapy to seek it from people who lack proper credentials and expertise. They point out that the new law only targets health professionals and is mute on whether other people — such as spiritual leaders, for instance — can try to administer their own form of reparative therapy.

Anti-reparative therapy activist Matthew Shurka was glad to see Gov. Hogan sign the measure into law. Shurka told CBS News, "We know 700,000 people in the United States have been through conversion therapy, and 78,000 teenagers will go through it in the next five years, and this is getting us closer to zero."

Democratic Sen. Richard Madaleno voiced the common argument that reparative therapy leads to LGBTQ suicides. He argued, "I think it's fantastic, because it will save the lives of young people in our state."

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Those opposed to same-sex reparative therapy label it "conversion therapy," and sometimes even compare it to "shock therapy." They often claim that the practice has no basis in science.

But one of the scientific documents that often gets cited to argue against "conversion therapy" is explicitly biased.

An oft-cited report was released in October 2015 by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Titled "Ending Conversion Therapy," the document blasts so-called "outdated views of gender roles," and deems it a "negative stereotype" to believe that someone identifying as LGBTQ is "abnormal."

Despite the "shock therapy" label, the way reparative therapy is practiced today normally consists of meeting with a psychologist and talking things through. It is often premised on the theory that same-sex desires are often rooted in an emotional wound that the patient has in connection to one of their parents.

The late Dr. Joseph Nicolosi Sr. was one of the pioneers of modern same-sex reparative therapy. He explained his methodology in a videotaped lecture, accessible online in a series of YouTube videos titled The Shame-Based Self-Statement.

The lecture opens with Nicolosi saying, "We tell the client in the very first session: 'Your problem is not your homosexuality. Your problem is your shame. If you can get your shame out of the way, you will move on to heterosexuality."

His son, Joseph Nicolosi Jr., is continuing his father's legacy. He is clinical director of The Breakthrough Clinic, which offers addiction treatment.

Church Militant published an interview with Nicolosi Jr. on March 22. He told Church Militant, "My father showed me the fundamental premise of our work — the recognition that everyone should be free to find therapy and support to help them achieve their desired outcomes and goals. Everyone has the right to walk away from sexual practices that don't work for them."

Everyone has the right to walk away from sexual practices that don't work for them.

Maryland is now the 11th state to have a law on the books banning reparative therapy for minors.

In the state of California, legislators are considering a bill that would prohibit reparative therapy for adults, as such therapy for minors is already illegal in the state. The proposed legislation has often been criticized for its ambiguous wording, with some commentators going so far as to say the bill could even ban the Holy Bible.

The Catholic bishops of California have been urging the faithful to rally against the bill. The website of the California Catholic Conference has a page where users can sign a letter to their local political leaders asking them to reject the proposed ban.

Even vehement opponents of reparative therapy bashed the California bill for its ambiguities. For instance, an op-ed headline in the LA Times proposed, "Conversion therapy for gays is awful, but so is California's bill to ban it."


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