Today with Governor Janet Mills’ signature, Maine became the 17th state in the U.S. to ban the practice of conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth. Every state across New England now prohibits licensed professionals from engaging in efforts to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a minor, a practice that has been discredited and denounced as harmful by every major medical and mental health association.

Mary L. Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director for GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and a Maine resident who assisted in drafting and preparing the hearings on the bill, issued the following statement:

Maine has made the powerful choice to create a better climate for LGBTQ youth. As Dr. Judith Glassgold, a national expert on conversion therapy and now Director of Professional Affairs for the New Jersey Psychological Association, said at the public hearing for this bill: ‘Conversion therapy puts children’s lives at risk.’

The state is empowered to regulate medical treatment to ensure it is safe, and that is especially true when it comes to youth. With this law, Maine is taking seriously its responsibility to ensure youth and parents who seek support are not subjected to fraudulent and dangerous practices under the guise of therapy.

The compelling testimony and enormous outpouring of support we saw in April before the Joint Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance, and Financial Services — from youth, parents, and medical and child welfare professionals — made the clear case that serious and lasting emotional distress comes of conversion therapy. The way to combat the harms of stigma and discrimination still faced by too many LGBTQ youth is to create a safer, more affirming climate that includes scientifically sound and supportive care, not to subject them to debunked practices that attempt to change who they are.

We’re grateful to lead sponsor Rep. Ryan Fecteau and to House Majority Leader Matt Moonen for their work in shepherding this bill, to the lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who supported it, and to Governor Mills for swiftly signing it into law. GLAD also commends the persistent work of our partners at Equality Maine, the ACLU of Maine, Maine Women’s Lobby, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights in ensuring this bill became law this year, and thanks our national partners at Human Rights Campaign and the Trevor Project for their efforts to see an end to conversion therapy.

Our goal should be to ensure that all youth in Maine are supported and have the opportunity to thrive. This legislation will go a long way toward creating that reality.

Numerous Maine medical and mental health organizations provided testimony in favor of the bill, including the Maine Medical Association, the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the National Association of Social Workers, the National Institute of Mental Illness, as well as the Maine Psychological Association, the Maine Association of Psychiatric Physicians and the Gender Clinic of Maine Medical Center.

The practice of conversion therapy has been condemned by The American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Counseling Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychoanalytic Association, Australian Psychological Society, British Psychological Association, Endocrine Society, National Association of Social Workers, Psychological Society of Ireland, Psychological Society of South Africa, and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.