A complicated family history spilled onto the floor of the Maryland House of Delegates this week in a debate about whether or not to ban conversion therapy — a practice used to try to minimize same-sex attraction or convert the sexual orientation of gay, lesbian or bisexual individuals.
Two state lawmakers — a father and a daughter — both members of the Republican party, voted on either side of a bill that hit a little too close to home.
Meagan Simonaire, R-Anne Arundel, a house delegate, stood to make her case for the bill, banning the controversial conversion therapy. A therapy, said Simonaire, “that licensed medical professionals have for years debunked as ineffective, inappropriate and flat out dangerous.”
And yet, less than a week before, Simonaire’s father, Maryland state Sen. Bryan Simonaire, had argued and voted against banning the therapy. The bill ultimately passed the Senate.
But Meagan Simonaire is right. There’s been a lot of debunking about the practice. A 2009 report from the American Psychological Association noted that scientific evidence shows that efforts to change sexual orientation aren’t likely to bring about their “intended outcomes and can produce harm for some.”
Conversion therapy sometimes includes talk therapy or associating negative experiences such as nausea and electric shocks with homoerotic images to change sexual preferences.
Meagan Simonaire argued that therapy isn’t needed in the first place. “What is not broken, cannot be fixed,” she said twice.
The 27-year-old, the youngest in Maryland’s House of Delegates, said she considered simply voting in favor of the ban and saying nothing else on the issue.
But then she stood and began a story, caught on video, of a girl who had “the most loving parents” and a happy childhood. The girl in Simonaire’s story was attracted to boys, but as a teenager, she fell in love with a girl.
The girl ended the relationship after a year because she worried about losing her family.
“Her worst fears came true.” Simonaire said the girl’s parents were heartbroken, disgusted and tried suggesting conversion therapy to fix her.
Simonaire said the girl felt a lot of self-loathing and went into a deep depression during that time.
Then came the punch line.
“If this bill keeps even one child from that, it will be worth sharing my story today,” Simonaire said, suggesting that her own father, the state Senator who had voted against the ban, had suggested conversion therapy to her as a teenager.
According to The Baltimore Sun, Simonaire was greeted warmly after her speech with tears and hugs.
The bill to ban conversion therapy passed Maryland’s House of Delegates and is headed to Gov. Larry Hogan for a signature. Maryland will join a list of about a dozen states that have already outlawed the practice.