Maryland Governor Larry Hogan today signed a bill into law that will protect Maryland youth from the practice of conversion therapy by health professionals. Conversion therapy, sometimes called “ex-gay therapy,” attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity and has been discredited by every major medical and mental health organization as an ineffective and harmful practice. On April 4, Maryland Republican Delegate Meagan Simonaire made headlines when she took to the floor of Maryland’s House of Delegates to give an impassioned speech about the harm that resulted in her own life when her family, including father state senator Bryan Simonaire, sought conversion therapy for her.
Today’s bill signing was the result of targeted grassroots advocacy efforts by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), local Maryland LGBTQ advocacy group FreeState Justice, and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). NCLR has been standing up on behalf of survivors of conversion therapy for the past 20 years, and in 2014, launched its Born Perfect campaign—marking a commitment to end this practice in each state across the country.
NCLR Youth Policy Counsel and Born Perfect Campaign Coordinator Carolyn Reyes issued the following statement in response: “Today, Maryland, nicknamed the ‘Free State,’ just signed a bill into law to ensure LGBTQ youth can be free from harmful, ineffective attempts to change sexual orientation or gender identity through conversion therapy. Right now, there is a growing movement across the country. Maryland, and many other states, are taking action to protect youth from what the American Psychological Association has shown puts our youth at an increased risk of depression, substance abuse, and even suicide. We will keep fighting until all of our youth are protected, no matter where they live.”
Conversion therapy survivor and NCLR Born Perfect Campaign Strategist Mathew Shurka issued the following statement in response: “By sharing our stories, survivors like Meagan Simonaire and myself can help change hearts and minds to protect LGBTQ youth. Today, the state of Maryland took an important step to ensure that all of Maryland’s young people know that they are born perfect.”