Michigan has banned the use of conversion therapy on LGBTQ+ minors, further establishing the state as a safe haven for queer people amidst a period of discriminatory legislation across the United States.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer celebrated the new protections, writing "As a mom of a member of the community and a proud, lifelong ally, I’m grateful that today we’re banning the horrific practice of conversion therapy in Michigan."
Conversion therapy, denounced by Michigan legislators as a "draconian practice," is a scientifically unfounded therapy technique that attempts to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ+ people. Studies have shown that the practice is ineffective and dangerous, a consensus expressed by millions of healthcare professionals.
LGBTQ+ youth have already seen a tumultuous year of mental health challenges, especially with legislation mounting against them nationwide. In Michigan alone, 10 percent of youth were threatened with conversion therapy, and 5 percent were subjected to it, according to The Trevor Project. They also found that 45 percent of LGBTQ+ youth in Michigan considered suicide in 2022.
LGBTQ+ rights have become "very personal" to Gov. Whitmer, who is the proud mother of a gay woman. Earlier this year, Whitmer was able to amend Michigan's Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include gender identity and sexual orientation.
Michigan's Mental Health Code is the latest bill to be amended, with an additional section that prohibits mental health professionals from practicing conversion therapy with minors. Healthcare providers who engage in conversion therapy after the bill takes effect may have their license revoked or limited.
“We are exploring every possibility to protect the LGBTQ+ community in Michigan,” Whitmer previously told The Advocate Channel. “We just can’t afford to let Michigan go backwards.”
Improving protections is particularly important now, Lt. Gov. Garlin Glichrist II said, at a time when legislatures are actively working to undo protections for LGBTQ+ people.
He added: "I think it creates a stark contrast between the state of Michigan and other parts of the country where you have legislatures and executive offices that are actively working to legislate people out of protections in their states, and creating danger – real danger."