April 9 (UPI) -- Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a ban on conversion therapy for minors, making Massachusetts the 16th state in the nation to institute such a measure against a practice critics say is harmful.
The conversation therapy ban prohibits state-licensed healthcare providers from participating in "sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts with a patient who is less than 18 years of age."
The bill was forwarded to Baker's desk after the Massachusetts Senate voted 34-0 in its favor in late March. The House had earlier passed a similar measure in a 147-8 vote, NBC Boston reported.
Baker, a Republican, had earlier stated he would support the ban.
The move was applauded by LGBT civil rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, saying the ban grants gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth in the state a "new freedom to live authentically, free from fear of the debunked and potentially life-threatening practice of so-called conversion therapy."
"We thank and applaud Gov. Baker and the Massachusetts General Assembly for making these protections law -- and congratulate them in taking this momentous bipartisan step forward in ensuring Massachusetts is a safe and affirming state for all LGBT children," HRC National Field Director Mary Rouse said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Family Institute called the ban in a statement a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech and an "extraordinarily invasive assault on the rights of parents to raise their children."
MFI's statement on @MassGovernor signing the #counselingban: “This law is an extraordinarily invasive assault on the rights of parents to raise their children and a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech for the counselors whose help they seek." #mapoli— MA Family Institute (@MAFamilyInst) April 8, 2019
MFI President Andrew Beck said in a tweet he will pursue legal action against the ban "to defend the constitutional rights of parents and counselors in our commonwealth."
Critics of conversion therapy have said there is no evidence to suggest that the practice has any effect on changing the sexual orientation or gender identity of a child and instead claim that it can be mentally harmful.
With the signing of the bill, Massachusetts becomes the 16th state to ban the controversial practice following California, Connecticut, Delaware and Hawaii, among others.