New bill to ban conversion therapy in Michigan introduced by state reps

By Aleanna Siacon
Detroit Free Press

LANSING — A new proposal on the table could ban conversion therapy in the state of Michigan.

This legislation, House Bill 5550, introduced by State Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor, will “prohibit mental health professionals from engaging in efforts to change the sexual orientation and gender identity of a minor.”

If passed, Michigan would be the 10th state in the U.S. with a law prohibiting conversion therapy — joining California, Nevada, Oregon, New Mexico, Illinois, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Jersey, in addition to Washington, D.C.

This marks the third attempt by Zemke to get legislation on the books. He was behind two other proposals for a ban on conversion therapy: House Bill 5703 in 2014 and House Bill 5669 in 2016, both were not passed.

Zemke and Rep. Darrin Camilleri, D-Brownstown Twp., issued a release Thursday condemning the $200 “Unashamed Identity Workshop” hosted by Metro City Church and provided by FORGE Ministries for girls “by birth” ages 12-16 who are questioning their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The original posting for the workshops said: “It doesn’t have to be this way. With God’s help there can be healing, wholeness and hope. Through thoughtful, relevant and biblical counsel we will help your girl be unashamed of her true sexual identity given to her by God at birth.”

The posting has since been removed, but lead pastor Jeremy Schossau said the workshops will continue.

“It is wildly inappropriate to offer conversion therapy classes in our communities and doing so is misrepresentative of our values as a welcoming state,” Zemke said in a statement. “I am proud to sponsor a bill to prohibit these practices in Michigan. Not only has scientific evidence overwhelmingly found that these approaches fail to accomplish their purported task, but they are also profoundly destructive and painful for the participating individual and his or her loved ones.”

Zemke and Camilleri also sent a letter to Attorney General Bill Schuette on Thursday calling on him to investigate Metro City Church and FORGE Ministries for a possible violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.

The letter also urged Schuette to work with federal authorities to investigate possible violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act, on the grounds that Section 5 the FTC “prohibits ‘unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.'”

Reps. Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, Tim Sheller, D-Burton, and Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, joined as letter signatories.

“The attorney general is uniquely situated with the power and duty to prevent those that sponsor this workshop from targeting families and young people and scamming them out of their hard-earned money for a practice that has no basis in science,” Camilleri said in a statement.

LGBTQ advocacy group, Equality Michigan, praised the actions of community leaders who have taken action against conversion therapy.

“Luckily, LGBTQ kids in Michigan have the support of honest and accredited mental health professionals along with the love and acceptance of faith leaders from every corner of our state, including strong Christian pastors. We are thankful for these political leaders who stand up for their constituents and our community as well,” Equality Michigan said in a statement.

The Rev. Roland Stringfellow of the Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit, whose protestant ministry “offers a loving, supportive and non-judgmental environment to all people,” joined a protest Thursday outside of Metro City Church in Riverview.

“Our position is that we don’t believe that God favors one group over another, that all people are welcome and should not be discriminated against. In fact, when you do say you’re in and you’re out, that really does create spiritual violence,” Stringfellow said Friday. “People are literally dying spiritually, emotionally and physically. Meaning, taking their own lives because they feel like God is against them as well as their family and faith community.”

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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