Maryland Lawmaker Says Conversion Therapy Is Okay If It’s Done In A “Loving” Way

“I wonder if Jesus would have been banned if he had been licensed in Maryland,” asked state Sen. Bryan Simonaire.

More and more states are outlawing conversion therapy, but one Maryland legislator believes some form of the discredited practice should be allowed, so long as it’s done in a “loving” way.

While his fellow lawmakers advanced a bill that would prohibit licensed medical professionals from trying to change a child’s sexual orientation, state Sen. Bryan Simonaire (R-Pasadena) argued the government has no business telling parents what treatment to provide for their kids.

Linda Davidson / The Washington Post

Families should have the choice, he insists, if they are consenting and the therapy is done in a “loving” way. He sponsored an amendment to the bill that would bar coercion, electroshock therapy, and other abuse, but give therapists flexibility with other conversion tactics.

“I don’t think [conversion therapy] is abuse in every case,” says Simonaire, who claims the ban would silence a child who wanted to talk to their clergy or health care professional about feeling gay or transgender.

“The definition is so expansive this bill could revoke someone’s license and livelihood by a simple conversation,” he added. “I wonder if Jesus would have been banned if he had been licensed in Maryland.”

Now headed to the House, the measure defines conversion therapy as “a practice or treatment by a licensed mental health or child care practitioner that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

It does not affect religious groups or unlicensed practitioners.

State Sen. Richard Madaleno Jr., D-Montgomery), who sponsored the bill, told the Baltimore Sun the law would simply prevent licensed professionals “from providing a therapy shown not to work. Adults can’t try to fix someone who is not broken.”

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.