Maryland joined 10 other states in banning gay conversion therapy for minors after Gov. Larry Hogan signed a bill known as the Youth Mental Health Protection Act on Tuesday.
According to Life Site News, the new law, which will take effect in October, would make it illegal to make an attempt to change the "behavioral expression" of a minor's "sexual orientation, change gender expression, or eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender."
The legislation went to the desk of Hogan after it was passed by the Senate in March by a vote of 34–12 and approved in the House in April by a vote of 95–27.
Those who are found to be in violation of the new law could face suspension or revocation of their health or child care licenses. The ban would apply to all minors even if the parents approve of the treatment.
During the debate on the bill, Sen. Bryan Simonaire of Anne Arundel County had expressed concern that the definition of conversion therapy was too broad that it could affect the work of well-meaning counselors.
"The definition is so expansive this bill could revoke someone's license and livelihood by a simple conversation. I wonder if Jesus would have been banned if he had been licensed in Maryland," Simonaire said, according to Baltimore Sun.
Democrats dismissed Simonaire's concerns, saying the legislation only covers licensed professionals, not religious officials or other individuals.
"We should not as a body license people who are going to interfere in the lives of those young people and try to tell them who they are or how they should feel. If they want to be counseled and they are seeking counseling there's nothing in this bill that stops that from happening," Sen. Delores Kelly of Baltimore County was quoted as saying.
Several groups such as the World Psychiatric Association considers gay conversion therapy as junk science. Critics often cite electric shocks and induced vomiting as representative examples of the said practice.
The new law makes Maryland the 11th state to pass a law banning gay conversion therapy. Other states that have banned the practice include Connecticut, California, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
According to The Christian Post, New York also banned gay conversion therapy through executive action. The said therapy is also banned in the District of Columbia, and the states of New Hampshire and Hawaii are expected to follow suit.