U.S. District Judge, Deborah Chasanow, decided to dismiss a psychotherapist’s lawsuit that tried to challenge Maryland’s ban on treating minors with conversion therapy.
Judge Chasanow said that stopping conversion therapy on minors doesn’t stop psychotherapists from expressing their personal views abut the practice.
Chasanow added that research supports that conversion therapy is likely harmful to minors.
“These sources indicate that conducting conversion therapy on minors could potentially harm their emotional and physical well-being and, thus, prohibiting the practice of conversion therapy on minors would abate the harmful outcomes caused by conversion therapy,” she said.
The law only bans conversion therapy when it’s conducted by licensed practioners on minors, and it prohibits only speech “uttered in the process of conducting conversion therapy.”
Plaintiff Christopher Doyle’s lawyers argued that the law doesn’t differentiate between voluntary and forced change efforts.
Judge Chasanow, however, explained that children under the age of 16 can’t consent to psychological treatment.
“The mistake is treating the speech of professionals like Mr. Doyle differently from other constitutionally protected speech,” Roger Gannam, one of Doyle’s lawyers, said.
State Attorney General Brian Frosh was named as one of the defendants in the lawsuit. Raquel Coombs, a spokesperson for his office, said conversion therapy, “Relies on the false premise that an LGBTQ individual is broken and must be fixed… Advocates of this type of therapy are selling something that doesn’t make people’s lives better, (but) rather, as the court agreed, actually harmful to minors,” Coombs added.
Gov. Larry Hogan signed the law in May 2018, making Maryland the 11th state to ban conversion therapy for minors.
Utah is another state that has been trying to ban conversion therapy. The group, Equality Utah, and other advocates believe the ban will lower the state’s suicide rate, which is the fifth highest in the country. Conversion therapy has been associated with depression and suicide among adoloscents, and supporters think the ban will make a positive difference.
“Conversion therapy is, at its core, discriminatory, exploitative and dangerous,” said Emily Bleyl, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers for Utah. “There is no empirical evidence that sexual orientation and gender identity can be altered through therapy, and research has found that attempts to do so are dangerous.”