ANNAPOLIS — Today, FreeState Justice, Maryland’s LGBTQ advocate, claimed victory as Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed into law SB 1028 and SB 1218 – two critical pieces of legislation protecting LGBTQ youth. SB 1028 protects LGBTQ youth from the dangerous and debunked practice of so-called “conversion therapy.” With Governor Hogan’s signature, Maryland joins the growing number of states and municipalities adopting critical protections for LGBTQ youth. SB 1218 creates a grant fund within the Department of Housing and Community Development to expand housing and support services to unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness – a disproportionate number of whom identify as members of the LGBTQ community.
FreeState Justice Executive Director Mark Procopio said, “Governor Hogan and Maryland’s General Assembly send an important affirmation to LGBTQ youth across our state with the signing of these two bills. LGBTQ youth are perfect as they are and are deserving of every opportunity to help them thrive.” Free State Justice, along with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), and WISE of Anne Arundel County advocated for the passage of SB 1028 during the 2018 legislative session.
SB 1028 was introduced in the Maryland State Senate by Senator Richard Madaleno and in the House of Delegates by Delegate Bonnie Cullison and passed the legislature with bipartisan support. SB 1218 was introduced in the Maryland State Senate by Senator William Smith, Jr. and in the House of Delegates by Delegate Mary Washington and also passed with bipartisan support.
“At a time when teen suicide rates are on the rise, we need to do everything we can to encourage young people to live true and fulfilling lives. That’s why I have fought so hard to this important bill passed, and that’s why I am relieved that it is now signed in to law,” said Senator Madaleno.
There is no credible evidence that conversion therapy can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. To the contrary, research has clearly shown that these practices pose devastating health risks for LGBTQ young people such as depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, homelessness, and even suicidal behavior. The harmful practice is condemned by every major medical and mental health organization, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and American Medical Association.
Connecticut, California, Nevada, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New York, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Washington all have laws or regulations protecting youth from this abusive practice. A growing number of municipalities have also enacted similar protections, including cities and counties in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, Florida, New York, Arizona, and Wisconsin. In addition, the Hawaii and New Hampshire state legislatures recently passed similar protections which await their Governor’s respective signatures.
According to a recent report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, an estimated 20,000 LGBTQ minors in states without protections will be subjected to conversion therapy by a licensed healthcare professional if state officials fail to act.
FreeState Justice, Inc. (formerly FreeState Legal Project, Inc., and Equality Maryland) is a social justice organization that works through direct legal services, legislative and policy advocacy, and community engagement to enable Marylanders across the spectrum of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer identities to be free to live authentically, with safety and dignity, in all communities throughout the state.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.
WISE provides a platform of information for women of diverse views to come together and promote the values and rights that promote inclusivity, fairness and safety in our communities. We demand representation consistent with our mission from our politicians and we advocate for a range of issues, particularly at the local level.