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Germany has moved closer to banning the use of conversion therapy on minors, with Chancellor Angela Merkel and the nation's cabinet endorsing the ban Wednesday.
Legislation on the matter will now go to both houses of Parliament. A vote is expected by next summer, NBC News reports.
The bill would prohibit therapists from advertising or offering such services, designed to turn LGBTQ people straight or cisgender, according to German publication Deutsche Welle. Those who do would face a fine of up to 30,000 euros, which is equivalent to about $33,000.
The practice would be banned for all minors, including those age 16-18, who were not included in an earlier version of the bill. Only adults who freely seek out such therapy could legally do so.
"Homosexuality is not an illness; therefore the word 'therapy' is already misleading," Health Minister Jens Spahn, who is gay, told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland news group. "This so-called therapy makes people sick instead of well."
Barbel Bas, chair of Germany's Social Democratic Party, said he would like to see the practice banned for adults as well, but he recognizes this would be difficult to implement, Deutsche Welle reports.
LGBTQ rights groups praised the move. "We celebrate with Germany as it joins the ever-growing community of nations working to prevent the harms of the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy," said a statement issued by Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs for the Trevor Project. "Thank you to German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her important statements that homosexuality is not an illness and her recognition that conversion therapy has no scientific basis. Young Germans will now know that they are able to live lives free from the dangers of conversion therapy and that is a moment worth celebrating."
"It is incredibly encouraging to see the Cabinet of Germany taking this step towards banning 'conversion therapy' practices, sending a powerful message that LGBTIQ people are not in need of change or cure," added Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International, in a press release. "Demand for 'conversion therapy' will decrease only if acceptance of LGBTIQ lives grows. As such, legal efforts to tackle 'conversion therapy' have to go hand in hand with measures designed to promote understanding and inclusion of LGBTIQ people. Germany is heading in this direction, and I hope to see other countries follow suit!"
If the bill passes, Germany will join Malta, Ecuador, Brazil, and Taiwan to become only the fifth country in the world to ban conversion therapy. Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, has called for a ban in his nation. In the U.S., 19 states and numerous cities and counties have banned the use of conversion therapy on minors.