Maryland Move to Ban 'Ex-Gay' Therapy Reveals Family Rift

Maryland legislature

Maryland is set to become the 11th state to ban the use of “ex-gay” therapy on minors by state-licensed professionals, after a legislative process that saw a clash of father and daughter lawmakers, with the daughter saying her parents suggested such therapy.

The Maryland House of Delegates passed the bill banning so-called conversion therapy Wednesday by a vote of 95-27, after the state Senate approved it the previous week, NBC News reports. It classifies the widely discredited practice, designed to turn LGBT people straight and cisgender, as “unprofessional conduct” and provides for violators to face discipline from the state licensing board, according to NBC. Gov. Larry Hogan is expected to sign it into law.

Before the House vote, Del. Meagan Simonaire, a Republican, spoke out in favor of the bill by telling the story of a young woman who was attracted to both men and women, and that after some trepidation, she finally broached the subject to her parents, they were “heartbroken and disgusted” and recommended conversion therapy. She then revealed that she was that woman.

“Prior to her interest in girls, she was the light of her parents’ eyes,” she said, according to The Baltimore Sun. “But now she is left with the impact of going through the self-hatred, depression, and shame, even though her parents truly believed that they were trying to help her. If this bill keeps even one child from that, it will be worth sharing my story today.” She did not end up undergoing conversion therapy, she said.

Her father, Sen. Bryan Simonaire, countered by saying his daughter’s situation was different from that of the youths the bill is designed to protect. She was 26 at the time, he told The Washington Post, and that he and his wife simply suggested Christian counseling. “This was not a minor — this was a grown woman coming to her parents for advice,” he said. “And there was no coercion or pressure.”

Bryan Simonaire, also a Republican, voted against the bill, which his daughter voted for, because he felt it was too broad, he told the Post. He feared a counselor’s license could be revoked for “a simple conversation,” he said. And during debate in the Senate, he had wondered if “Jesus would have been banned if he had been licensed in Maryland,” the paper reports. He recently wrote a column in Annapolis, Md.'s Capital Gazette claiming his views had been distorted.

During her chamber’s debate, Meagan Simonaire had said, “This issue isn’t about Republicans or Democrats. It’s not about religious values. It’s about basic human decency.”

If Hogan, as expected, signs the bill, Maryland will join 10 other states in banning use of the practice on minors: Connecticut, California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New York, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and, most recently, Washington State, where Gov. Jay Inslee signed such a bill into law last month. The District of Columbia and several cities and counties also ban subjecting minors to the practice; last month Milwaukee became the latest city added to the list. California is considering expanding its law to classify conversion therapy, even for adults, as consumer fraud.  An Assembly committee approved the bill this week, but it has more hearings and votes to go through.