Debate Over Maine Conversion Therapy Ban Sees Lawmakers Shouting, Put In A Time Out

House Speaker Sarah Gideon had to pull one congressman into her office “until we can all cool down.”

Maine's House of Representatives passed a bill banning gay conversion therapy last week, but debate on the measure left some seething as discussion quickly devolved into angry shouts from lawmakers on both sides of the issue.

LD 912, which passed by a margin of 76-68, would prevent licensed therapists from trying to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a minor, with violators facing fines or the revocation of their license. During the hearing, Republican Roger Reed (R-Carmel) read an email from a constituent, calling homosexuality "unnatural" and the ban an attempt to supersede "the natural inclination as presented in the Bible."

Democrats quickly shouted Reed down, though. Eventually House Speaker Sarah Gideon ushered him into her office and called for a recess for the Legislature to "cool down." She later had to repeat the House decorum rules to remind members "not to impugn each other.”

Ryan Fecteau (D-Biddefort), the openly gay representative who sponsored the bill, recounted an exchange he had as a college student at Catholic University, where a school administrator told him, "I hope you’ll see beyond your gay identity and take in what life has to offer you.”

The administrator also recommended he read Beyond Gay, which claims that people can change their sexual orientation through prayer. Fecteau (above) said the conversation left him contemplating suicide.

"I know there are young people who are far more vulnerable than I was back then," Fectau, one six openly gay members of the Maine Legislature, told his fellow representatives. "I want to protect them from the harm that would come from a trusted professional telling them, one way or another, that they are broken, and that the core truth of who they are is wrong and even disgusting."

Others claimed the ban would infringe on parental rights: “Parents have a constitutional right to make decisions about raising their children,” said Rep. Susan Austin (R-Gray).

If it's signed into law, it would make Maine the 12th state in the U.S. to prohibit the discredited practice. Unfortunately, it faces a tough battle in the GOP-controlled state Senate and could face veto by Republican Governor Paul LePage.

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