Friday, March 14, 2014

Maryland 'gay conversion therapy' bill withdrawn

Maryland State House, Annapolis   * File Photo
By Brody Levesque | ANNAPOLIS -- A bill that would have banned mental health professionals from engaging in efforts to change a youth's sexual orientation or gender identity in Maryland has been withdrawn.
Baltimore County Delegate John Cardin,(D) the bill's sponsor, withdrew the bill Friday noting that LGBT advocacy groups and others will instead pursue regulatory oversight of the controversial practice.
"If we can do this without legislation, I am all about it," said Cardin, in a statement Friday. "I am not interested in the glory. I'm interested in solving problems."
Cardin's bill had targeted the state's professional counselors that fall under regulatory oversight but had excluded unlicensed church clergy or therapists, from engaging in efforts to change a youth's sexual orientation or gender identity. 
Cardin and Equality Maryland, Maryland's largest LGBT equality rights advocacy group, both labeled the practice of conversion therapy also known as reparative therapy dangerous, citing multiple professional medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association as opposing the practice.
In a joint statement Friday, Cardin and Carrie Evans, Equality Maryland's executive director, said that in research for the bill, and in talking to "several organizations with expertise in regulatory protections for patients," they concluded that patients who feel they have been harmed by "conversion" or "reparative" therapy already have avenues to complain to state health occupation boards.
"Minors or anyone advocating on their behalf can file a complaint with a board, triggering a vigorous investigation," the statement said. "If the investigation uncovers proof that a licensed health care professional violated the standard of care, then the board has an array of regulatory tools to keep this from happening again."
"Delegate Cardin and Equality Maryland are confident that the existing regulatory framework provides a precise tool to protect minors from this harmful therapy, and we will work together and with other advocates to ensure that the process for filing complaints against anyone who engages in these practices is transparent and widely disseminated."
Equality Maryland's Evans noted that her organization will "work to ensure LGBT youth and their parents have the information they need to file complaints."