Maine Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed a bill that would have prohibited state-licensed mental health professionals from subjecting minors to conversion therapy, which dangerously attempts to change the orientation or identity of LGBTQ people, the Portland Press Herald reports.
The far-right Republican governor, who vetoed the bill Friday, called it “bad public policy” that could potentially restrict therapist and patient interaction.
Maine would have become the 14th state to ban gay conversion therapy for minors, after neighboring New Hampshire officially banned the practice last month.
LePage, an anti-LGBT Trump supporter, is the first U.S. governor, Republican or Democrat, to veto a bill that would ban conversion therapy.
“This bill attempts to regulate professionals who already have a defined scope of practice and standard of care per their statutory licensing requirements,” LePage wrote in his veto.
“I strongly agree that young people should not be physically or mentally abused if they come out to their parents or guardians because they have experienced sexual or romantic attraction to an individual of the same gender. However, as it is written—‘any practice or course of treatment’—can call into question a simple conversation.”
Democratic Rep. Ryan Fecteau, the bill’s openly gay sponsor, calls LePage’s statement “ludicrous.”
Among his other objections to the bill, LePage criticized legislators for seeking to outlaw conversion therapy but refusing to pass a bill banning female genital mutilation, which is already banned by federal law.
“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,” says Human Rights Campaign national field director Marty Rouse. “HRC calls on the Maine legislature to override this veto and to demonstrate to the state’s LGBTQ youth that their lives and well-being are worth protecting.”
“Government’s greatest responsibility is to protect its most vulnerable citizens, especially minors who may not be able to protect themselves,” adds Matt Moonen, executive director of EqualityMaine. “Governor LePage had the opportunity, in one of his final acts as governor, to make Maine a safer place for LGBTQ youth. Unfortunately, he chose petty politics over protecting kids.”
Maine legislature plans to reconvene Monday to discuss overriding LePage’s veto. However, initial House and Senate votes to pass the heatedly debated bill both fall short of the two-thirds majority required for such an override.
Following backlash, LePage apologized in 2016 after calling a state representative a “little son-of-a-bitch, socialist cocksucker.”
Last month Maine became the fourth state to offer gender-neutral licenses.