HB1190 / SB62, An Act Relative to Abusive Practices to Change Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Minors

Joint Committee on Children, Families & Persons with Disabilities

The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association, on behalf of its member hospitals, health systems, physician organizations, and allied health care providers, appreciates this opportunity to offer comments in strong support of HB1190 / SB62, “An Act Relative to Abusive Practices to Change Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Minors.”

State-licensed professionals are expected to provide support and appropriate treatment to their clients, while abiding by Hippocratic maxim of, “Do no harm.” When it comes to children, such professionals strive to assist their clients with learning to accept themselves for who they are and to develop effective coping skills to relieve emotional suffering through various forms of therapeutic treatment.

In most therapeutic settings, children who are struggling with their sexuality or gender identity receive appropriate care. However, there have been instances where these children and their families are misled to believe that so-called “reparative, healing or conversion therapy” can eliminate same-sex attraction or transgender identity. Such practices, referred to as sexual orientation or gender identity “change efforts,” do not change sexual orientation or gender identity - instead they lead to direct harm. The American Psychological Association has identified “negative side effects” including “loss of sexual feeling, depression, suicidality, and anxiety.” Conversion therapy is universally condemned by leading professional organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association.

HB1190 / SB62 prohibits any licensed medical, mental health, or human service professional from engaging with a minor in therapeutic practices aimed at changing or healing the minor’s sexual orientation, in particular same-sex attraction, or eliminating a minor’s sincerely-held conviction that their birth-assigned gender is different or inappropriate from their actual gender identity. It additionally seeks to ban practices aimed at discouraging children from seeking a transition to the gender that they identify as. Furthermore, this legislation would define advertisements of reparative or conversion therapy as deceptive acts in violation of the state’s consumer protection laws, subject to enforcement by the state Attorney General. And finally, this bill would charge those who are defined as mandatory reporters to the state for child abuse incidents to report cases of suspected instances of reparative or conversion therapy by such state-licensed professionals to the Department of Children & Families. MHA strongly supports every tenet of this legislation and urges the committee to issue the bill an expedited favorable report.

Thank you for the opportunity to offer testimony on this important matter. If you have any questions, or require further information, please contact Michael Sroczynski, MHA’s Vice President of Government Advocacy, at (781) 262-6055 or msroczynski@mhalink.org.