The Republican governor of the US state of Maine has been condemned for blocking a bill that sought to protect LGBTQ youth from “conversion therapy”.
On Friday, Governor Paul LePage vetoed the legislation, which had earlier been passed by lawmakers, saying that the bill was “bad public policy”. He became the first US governor to reject this kind of law.
The bill aimed to bar mental health professionals from practicing conversion therapy on young people who are under the age of 18. The discredited practice attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
LePage argued that the proposed law “is so broad that licensed professionals would be prohibited from counselling an individual even at an individual’s own request.”
He added that it could also be “interpreted as a threat to an individual’s religious liberty,” insisting that “parents have the right to seek counsel and treatment for their children from professionals who do not oppose the parents’ own religious belief.”
The governor’s action was strongly criticised by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). “Governor LePage’s shameful decision to veto this life-saving legislation leaves Maine’s LGBTQ youth at risk of being subjected to a practice that amounts to nothing less than child abuse,” said Marty Rouse, HRC National Field Director.
“With this inexcusable decision, Governor LePage has become the only governor in the nation to veto legislation protecting young people from this abuse, solidifying his place in history’s hall of shame.”
LGBTQ activists have called on the Maine legislature to override the veto. “Government’s greatest responsibility is to protect its most vulnerable citizens, especially minors who may not be able to protect themselves,” added Matt Moonen, Executive Director of EqualityMaine.
The World Psychiatric Association and many other mental health bodies have asserted that trying to “cure” LGBTQ people doesn’t work and is both dangerous and unethical. The practice has been linked to causing mental health issues, including suicide.
The states of Connecticut, California, Nevada, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New York, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Washington, Maryland, Hawaii, and New Hampshire all now have laws or regulations protecting youth from conversion therapy.
This past week, the UK government announced that it plans to join Malta in becoming only the second country in the world to ban the practice.