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Charlie Baker said he is inclined to support ban on conversion therapy

Governor Charlie Baker
Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press/File
Governor Charlie Baker

Governor Charlie Baker said he is “inclined to support” legislation that would ban conversion therapy for minors in Massachusetts, giving a boost to those who want to outlaw the practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation through counseling.

Baker, who spoke to reporters Thursday afternoon after a press conference on road safety, said he was aware that two bills to ban conversion therapy were moving through the Legislature, but generally supports the idea.

“They’re different, so I’m not going to speak to either one of them, but if a conversion therapy bill gets to my desk and we don’t see any other issues with it, it’s something we’d be inclined to support,” Baker said, using his hands to put air quotes around the words conversion therapy.

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The Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities heard hours of testimony on conversion therapy at a hearing Tuesday and voted immediately afterward to move two bills through the committee.

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The majority of those who appeared supported the ban, suggesting conversion therapy is not rooted in science and can harm youth psychologically.

Representative Kay Khan’s bill in the House is identical to the legislation that passed both the House and Senate last summer, but stalled in the final moments of the formal session before reaching Baker’s desk. It would ban state-licensed therapists from practicing conversion therapy with minors and includes an exemption for religious institutions.

The Senate bill filed by Senator Mark Montigny contains additional mandatory reporting language that would apply to teachers and doctors, according to the committee. It’s unclear if the governor has an issue with any of these provisions.

Khan’s bill has 116 co-sponsors, and as chair of the committee that heard the bill she said she’s hopeful that it will reach the floor of the House for a vote quickly.

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“That’s my hope. Better to get it over sooner rather than later, in my opinion, because just having it out there for a long period of time, there are a lot of naysayers out there,” Khan told the News Service on Tuesday.

Opponents of the bill objected to the idea that the government would take away a treatment that might be helpful and desired by some people struggling with their sexual orientation for faith-based or other reasons.