Maine Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed legislation that would have protected LGBTQ youth from the harmful practice of so-called “conversion therapy.”
In doing so, LePage becomes the first governor in the United States to veto such legislation.
The vetoed bill, LD 912, would have prohibited the advertising, offering or administering conversion therapy to individuals under 18 years of age in Maine as an unfair trade practice, penalizing mental health workers who engage in the practice with loss of their license.
Included in the bill was a carve-out for members of the clergy as long as they didn’t receive any monetary compensation.
LePage told state lawmakers in a statement he was concerned about the ‘religious liberty’ of parents to decide how and if their children are exposed to the dangerous practice.
“I strongly agree that young people should not be physically or mentally abused if they come out to their parents or guardians because they have expressed sexual or romantic attraction toward an individual of the same gender,” LePage wrote.
“However, as this is written — ‘any practice or course of treatment’ — can call into question a simple conversation. This is so broad that licensed professionals would be prohibited from counseling an individual even at the individual’s own request.”
This isn’t LePage’s first trip to the anti-LGBTQ rodeo.
In 2016, LePage famously left a profanities-laced voicemail message for a political opponent that included the use of the anti-gay slur “cocksucker.”
To date, 14 states - Connecticut, California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New York, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Washington, Maryland, Hawaii, New Hampshire - plus Washington, D.C. have enacted legislation to ban the widely discredited practice of “ex-gay” therapy.
Even in his own party, the Republican governor is woefully out of step.
GOP governors in New Jersey, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada, Maryland and New Hampshire have understood the dangers “conversion therapy” can have on young people.
Mainstream medical organizations including the American Psychological Association, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all denounced the practice.
The Maine bill passed in the state House by 80-55 and in the Maine Senate 19-12 in a special legislative session last month.
LGBTQ advocacy organizations are calling for state lawmakers to override the governor’s veto.
Marty Rouse, HRC National Field Director, issued a statement which read, in part, “Governor LePage’s shameful decision to veto this life-saving legislation leaves Maine’s LGBTQ youth at risk of being subjected to a practice that amounts to nothing less than child abuse.”
“These crucial protections are supported by a bipartisan majority, and have been signed into law in a growing number of other states by both Democratic and Republican governors -- including by the Republican governor in neighboring New Hampshire mere weeks ago.”
“With this inexcusable decision, Governor LePage has become the only governor in the nation to veto legislation protecting young people from this abuse, solidifying his place in history’s hall of shame.”
Janson Wu, executive director of GLBTQ Advocates & Defenders, called LePage’s veto a “heartless and dangerous action” that leaves LGBT lives at risk.
“Gov. LePage had an opportunity to protect Maine youth from these harms, and to ensure parents are not misled into subjecting their children to an unsafe and ineffective so-called ‘treatment,'” Wu said.
“Instead, the governor has sent a signal that the risk of hurting LGBTQ youth is acceptable.”
(photo credit: Gage Skidmore/CC license)