Dozens of House and Senate co-sponsors cheer after Gov. Janet Mills signed into law a bill banning the practice of conversion therapy in Maine. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)

AUGUSTA — Maine banned gay conversion therapy for minors on Wednesday, joining more than a dozen other states that have outlawed the controversial practice. 

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed the bill Wednesday, and it will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns next month. 

Conversion therapy aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Under the new law, professionals, including school psychologists, pharmacy technicians and social workers, who have advertised, offered or administered conversion therapy to a child could face discipline from licensing boards. 

Maine joins 16 other states and the District of Columbia that have banned the practice. Supporters decry it as a harmful and note the American Psychological Association opposes the therapy. 

“Conversion therapy is a harmful, widely discredited practice that has no place in Maine,” Mills said. “By signing this bill into law today, we send an unequivocal message to young LGBTQ people in Maine and across the country: We stand with you, we support you, and we will always defend your right to be who you are.” 

A law against conversion therapy was signed recently in Massachusetts, while states including North Carolina are considering such legislation this year. 

“With this law, Maine is taking seriously its responsibility to ensure youth and parents who seek support are not subjected to fraudulent and dangerous practices under the guise of therapy,” said Mary Bonauto, the Civil Rights Project director for GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. 

Maine’s former Republican governor vetoed a similar measure last year, but the bill has gained momentum this year under a Democratic-led Legislature. Republicans argued that the bill was unnecessary, while also contending that it would prevent parents from seeking religious counselors for their children. 

“There have not been any recorded cases of this happening in Maine,” said state House Republicans spokesman John Bott. 

Republicans failed to pass an amendment to exclude talk therapy and counseling from counting as conversion therapy. 

Maine’s law exempts treatment that offers acceptance, support and understanding while being neutral on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

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