Human Rights Campaign Commends Michigan Governor Whitmer for Signing Conversion Therapy Ban into Law

by HRC Staff

This legislation is the latest move by Whitmer and pro-equality legislators to advance and protect LGBTQ+ rights in Michigan, particularly in contrast to anti-LGBTQ+ efforts by extremists across the country

LANSING, MICHIGAN — The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — commends Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer for signing HB 4616 and HB 4617 into law, banning conversion therapy statewide.

This comes on the heels of Governor Whitmer establishing the first ever, state-wide LGBTQ+ Commission this past June, in addition to signing into law a bipartisan amendment to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) that explicitly includes protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. All of this progress is not only due to decades of organizing by pro-LGBTQ+ groups and activists, it’s a direct result of the will of Michigan voters in the 2022 midterm elections, who rejected a dangerous, anti-LGBTQ+ campaign by radical politicians.

“By signing the conversion therapy ban into law today, Governor Whitmer continued to demonstrate that she is a champion for LGBTQ+ equality. So called “conversion therapy” is a dangerous and discredited practice that will hopefully never see the light of day again here in Michigan. We thank everyone whose advocacy efforts made today possible, including the healthcare community, state and local LGBTQ+ organizations, and pro-equality legislators.

We also want to call attention to how voting matters, because it directly led to days like today, in addition to the Governor’s signing of ELCRA earlier this year, and her establishment of an LGBTQ+ Commission last month. The Human Rights Campaign looks forward to continuing to help advance pro-equality progress in Michigan.”

Sarah Warbelow, Human Rights Campaign Vice President of Legal

The Facts About So-Called “Conversion Therapy”

“Conversion therapy” refers to a range of dangerous and discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Every major medical and mental health organization in the United States has rejected the use of conversion therapy as dangerous. In addition, peer-reviewed research published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2020 found that youth subjected to conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide and more than 2.5 times as likely to report multiple suicide attempts in that past year.

More than one out of every eight young LGBTQ+ people living in Michigan reported being threatened with or subjected to conversion therapy, according to the Trevor Project, an organization devoted to preventing suicide in the LGBTQ+ community.

The bill that passed the Michigan Senate today prevents state-licensed mental health providers from engaging in conversion therapy with minors and would aim to increase trust with state-licensed mental health providers. The ban will curb harmful practices, protect families from predatory therapists, and help ensure the health and safety of young people across Michigan.

Historic Pro-Equality Progress in Michigan

Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act

Earlier this year Governor Whitmer signed into law a bipartisan amendment to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) that explicitly includes protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. This was the first statewide law in Michigan to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, and is a repudiation against extremist lawmakers waging an anti-LGBTQ+ culture war across the country.

This amended civil rights law is not only due to decades of organizing by pro-LGBTQ+ groups and activists, it’s a direct result of the will of Michigan voters in the 2022 midterm elections, who rejected a dangerous, anti-LGBTQ+ campaign by radical politicians. Passage of the ELCRA amendment is proof that the attempt to win voters by using LGBTQ+ people as a wedge issue is a failing strategy - voters are not falling for it.

LGBTQ+ Commission

This past June, Governor Whitmer also established the first state-wide LGBTQ+ Commission to address issues facing Michigan’s LGTBQ+ community, including health, safety, and economic opportunity, with the goal of making the state a place where anyone can build a bright future.

The LGBTQ+ Commission will also advise the governor and the director of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity on policy matters impacting Michigan’s LGBTQ+ community and its members, including eradicating and preventing discrimination against the community and its members and addressing other forms of inequality. The Commission will look at ways of improving and protecting the health, safety, and well-being of Michigan’s LGBTQ+ community and promoting LGBTQ+ culture, history, and economic contributions to Michigan through coordinated efforts and advocacy across state government. Additionally, the Commission will look at ways to attract potential future residents from the LGBTQ+ community by ensuring that Michigan is a safe place where its members and their families can thrive. The governor will appoint individuals that represent the interests of a diverse range of communities and perspectives.

Michigan Voters Reject Extremists During 2022 Midterm Elections

Across the country and in Michigan, election deniers and right-wing extremists lost winnable elections in battleground states because they advocated views that are out-of-touch with average voters. Not only did this result in a wave of historic victories for LGBTQ+ candidates, women, and candidates of color, but it also denied extremists the so-called “red wave” they were banking on — sending a clear message that embracing hate and disinformation are not a long term, sustainable path to victory.

Since 2018, HRC has had a dedicated team in Michigan working to grow HRC’s grassroots army and show political strength in the legislature and at the ballot box. With support from HRC members, we engage with state lawmakers and lobbyists to boost pro-equality legislation and defeat harmful bills, recruit and train volunteers, mobilize constituents to support or oppose legislation in Lansing, and turn out the 1.1 million Equality Voters in Michigan in support of pro-equality candidates up and down the ballot.

In the 2022 midterm elections, mobilization efforts of the Hate Won’t Win coalition, made up of Equality Michigan, HRC, ACLU, community centers and other organizations across the state, helped re-elect Governor Whitmer and elect a pro-equality legislative majority, resulting in movement on the ELCRA amendment for the first time in 40 years.

IN CONTRAST TO MICHIGAN: 2023 Becoming Worst Year On Record for Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation

So far in 2023, HRC is opposing over 570 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced in statehouses across the country. A total of 82 pieces of legislation have been enacted into law this year. A total of 230 of introduced bills would specifically restrict the rights of transgender people, the highest number of bills targeting transgender people in a single year to date. This year, HRC is tracking:

  • A total 132 gender-affirming care bans — bills that would prevent transgender youth from being able to access age-appropriate, medically-necessary, best-practice health care; this year, 19 have already become law in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Dakota, Utah, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana, Oklahoma, Florida, Nebraska, Texas, Louisiana and Missouri

  • More than 30 anti-transgender bathroom bills filed;

  • More than 100 anti-LGBTQ+ curriculum censorship bills, and;

  • 44 anti-LGBTQ+ drag performance ban bills.

Americans believe the amount of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is excessive, agreeing it is “political theater.” Likely voters across all political parties look at GOP efforts to flood state legislatures with anti-LGBTQ+ legislation as political theater. Recent polling indicates that 64% of all likely voters, including 72% of Democrats, 65% of Independents, and 55% of Republicans think that there is “too much legislation” aimed at “limiting the rights of transgender and gay people in America” (Data For Progress survey of 1,220 likely voters, 3/24-26, 2023).

By comparison, last year in 2022 politicians in statehouses across the country introduced 315 anti-LGBTQ+ bills, 29 of which were enacted into law. These efforts — the result of a coordinated push led by national anti-LGBTQ+ groups, which deployed vintage discriminatory tropes seeking to slander, malign, and stigmatize LGBTQ+ people — only yielded a less than 10% success rate, as more than 90% of anti-LGBTQ+ bills were defeated. The majority of the discriminatory bills – 149 bills – targeted the transgender and non-binary community, with the majority targeting children. By the end of the 2022 state legislative season, a record 17 bills attacking transgender and non-binary children were enacted into law.

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