Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law a bill on Monday that prohibits licensed medical professionals from providing conversion therapy for anyone under 18 years old.
In enacting House Bill 140, Massachusetts becomes the sixteenth state, in addition to Washington, DC, that prohibits the practice aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The law specifically attempts to restrict health care providers from performing and advertising efforts to change the gender identity and sexual orientation of a minor. Changes that provide acceptance, facilitate coping, or are sexual orientation-neutral and not imposing a change are exempt from the prohibition. In doing so, the law specifically targets conversion therapy techniques, which were originally ordered by physicians, therapists and psychologists/psychiatrists.
Conversion therapy is acknowledged as being a dangerous and generally ineffective procedure. It consists of healthcare professions inducing negative stimuli whenever a subject has a sexual reaction towards someone of the same sex. Within the law, a health care professional attempting to change a minor’s sexual orientation and gender identity will be subject to penalties under their perspective board.
Despite the progressive move, the ban cannot regulate similar acts when performed by religious leaders. Additionally, the law only restricts these procedures to those under the age of 18. Therefore, adults can still be prescribed conversion therapy by health care professionals.