A growing number of states are moving to ban conversion therapy — dubious, often shame-based methods to persuade kids to change their sexual orientation or gender identity — but Maine’s governor isn’t interested in joining the trend.
Gov. Paul LePage (R) on Friday became the first governor in the nation to veto such a ban, after the Maine legislature approved it last month.
In his veto message, LePage argued the legislation was overly broad and could pose a threat to the religious liberty of anti-LGBTQ people. He claimed the ban could result in unnecessarily restricting people who want to seek counseling for these issues “even at the individual’s own request.”
At the same time, LePage argued that the legislation is unnecessary because he doesn’t believe conversation therapy is occurring in Maine.
Though right-wing opponents of LGBTQ rights posit that people can undergo “therapy” to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, several decades of research has proven that conversion therapy is ineffective and in fact harmful to youth receiving the message that being queer is a mental illness.
Major medical associations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the World Health Organization have all come out in support of banning the practice.
Thirteen other states and dozens of cities have already implemented conversion therapy bans. Across the pond, the British government is currently moving toward a national ban prohibiting medical practitioners from using these tactics.
A spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign released a statement slamming LePage’s veto as “shameful” and “inexcusable.”
The HRC’s national field director, Marty Rouse, said LePage’s decision to block the state from implementing the ban “leaves Maine’s LGBTQ youth at risk of being subjected to a practice that amounts to nothing less than child abuse.”
LePage used his veto power to block the implementation of the state’s Medicaid expansion, which will extend health coverage to an estimated 70,000 additional low-income residents. Maine voters approved the expansion through a ballot measure last fall, but LePage has been dragging his feet on following through — so much so that he was taken to court and ordered by a state judge to stop stonewalling.
The Maine legislature can override LePage’s veto with a two-third vote in both chambers.