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Gov. Whitmer Signs Legislation to Protect LGBTQ+ Youth, Ban Conversion Therapy


July 26, 2023 



Gov. Whitmer Signs Legislation to Protect LGBTQ+ Youth, Ban Conversion Therapy


LANSING, Mich. – Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed bipartisan House Bills 4616 and 4617 to protect LGBTQ+ youth by prohibiting conversion therapy for minors. Michigan joins 21 other states in banning the harmful practice and prioritizing the wellbeing of young LGBTQ+ individuals. 


“Today, we are banning the horrific practice of conversion therapy in Michigan and ensuring this is a state where you can be who you are,” said Governor Whitmer. “As a mom of a member of the community and a proud, lifelong ally, I am grateful that we are taking action to make Michigan a more welcoming, inclusive place. Let’s continue working together to ensure anyone can ‘make it’ in Michigan, expand fundamental freedoms, and fight back against any and all forms of discrimination."


This legislation builds on the governor’s executive directive to prohibit the use of state and federal funds for conversion therapy on minors. In 2021, the governor signed the directive and called on the legislature to codify a ban on conversion therapy.


Conversion therapy, also known as "reparative therapy" refers to any intervention that attempts to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity. It rests on the false, offensive premise that an LGBTQ+ individual's identity is pathological and must be "repaired" or "fixed." The nation's leading medical and mental health organizations oppose the practice of conversion therapy on minors. Not only is conversion therapy ineffectual, it can lead to significant long-term harm, including anxiety, depression, internalized homophobia, self-blame, and higher risk of suicide. 


Statistics from the Trevor Project, a nonprofit dedicated to LGBTQ+ suicide prevention, estimate that 5% of Michigan’s LGBTQ+ youth have reported being subjected to conversion therapy as of 2022. In the same study, another 10% reported being threatened with the possibility of conversion therapy. 


House Bill 4616 amends the Mental Health Code to prohibit a mental health professional from engaging in conversion therapy with a minor. A mental health professional that did so would be subject to disciplinary action and licensing sanctions. 


“Michiganders can now rest assured that our state’s children will be protected from a dangerous, non-evidence-based practice when they go to therapy,” said state Representative Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield Twp.). “As a clinical psychologist, I am acutely aware that kids need to be free to express themselves without the fear or threat of damaging pseudo-psychology like conversion therapy. With the support of several mental health organizations throughout our state and nation, I can confidently say that this law will help to ensure that therapists like myself continue to do no harm in our practices, while protecting the LGBTQ youth in our state.”


House Bill 4617 amends the Mental Health Code to define "conversion therapy" as any practice or treatment by a mental health professional that seeks to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behavior or gender expression or to reduce or eliminate sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward an individual of the same gender. 


"The LGBTQ+ has endured through challenging times, but today marks a significant step forward as we bid farewell to a harmful and deceitful practice that has inflicted considerable harm upon the LGBTQ+ community since its inception,” said state Representative Jason Hoskins (D-Southfield). “With this legislation, we are creating a safer environment for Michigan's children. It is a powerful message of love, hope, and acceptance, paving the way for brighter days ahead." 


“This legislation will protect our young LGBTQ+ Michiganders, but also their parents, who deserve to know that when they hire a licensed mental health professional, that professional is operating only with reputable practices and in the best interest of their child, NOT inflicting harm on them,” said state Senator Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak).


"Equality Michigan proudly commends Governor Gretchen Whitmer for her decisive action in ending the harmful and discredited practice of conversion therapy for minors in the state of Michigan,” said Erin Knott, Executive Director, Equality Michigan. “Signing this bill into law is a vital step toward protecting some of the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community. Governor Whitmer has demonstrated unwavering commitment to the wellbeing and safety of Michigan's LGBTQ+ youth and is sending the powerful message that every young person in our state deserves to grow up free from the damaging effects of this dangerous practice. By affirming that LGBTQ+ youth should be embraced, supported, and loved for exactly who they are, Michigan is paving the way for a brighter and more inclusive future for everyone who lives, works, and visits here."


“LGBTQ young people deserve to live authentically as who they are and the passage of these bills profoundly reaffirms this fundamental value and serves as a beacon of hope for LGBTQ young people in Michigan and beyond. We applaud the state lawmakers for taking swift action in implementing these protections and building on the incredible bipartisan momentum of similar advances this year like in Minnesota to eliminate the harms of conversion ‘therapy’ nationwide,” said Kasey Suffredini (he/him), Vice President of Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project. “This milestone would not have been possible without the concerted efforts of our partners at Equality Michigan and Human Rights Campaign and the leadership of pro-equality legislators and advocates across the state.”


Governor Whitmer’s Actions to Protect the LGBTQ+ Community 

Since taking office, Governor Whitmer has taken action to protect and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. 

  • In January 2019, signed an executive directive to strengthen protections against discrimination in state employment, including for gender identity or expression and sexual orientation. This directive extended those protections to the employees of anyone doing business with the state too.  
  • In February 2019, called for an expansion of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.  
  • In June 2019, became the first governor in Michigan to fly the Pride Flag on a building.  
  • In June 2020, renamed the Lewis Cass State Office Building to the “Elliott-Larsen Building” in honor of the bipartisan sponsors of Michigan’s Civil Rights Law.  
  • In June 2021, issued a proclamation marking June as Pride Month to recognize the accomplishments of LGBTQ+ Michiganders and became the first Michigan governor to march at the Motor City Pride parade. 
  • In June 2021, signed an executive directive to prohibit the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services from using any state and federal funds for conversion therapy on minors. It also requires any department or agency that regulates, provides, procures, or pays for medical or mental health services for Michiganders must act to protect minors from conversion therapy. 
  • In December 2021, filed an amicus brief in the Michigan Supreme Court arguing the language of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. 
  • In March 2023, signed bipartisan legislation strengthening and expanding the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. The bill reaffirms legal protections for sexual orientation and expands coverage to include gender identity and expression.
  • In June 2023, established Michigan’s LGBTQ Commission to address issues facing Michigan’s LGTBQ+ community, including health, safety, and economic opportunity.