New Mexico has become the latest state to sign into law a ban on sexual orientation change efforts therapy for minors, becoming the sixth state to do so.
Last Friday, Republican Governor Susana Martinez signed Senate Bill 121 into law, which banned what critics often label "gay conversion therapy."
Also known as reparative therapy, SOCE therapy for those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction. Critics claim the practice has damaging effects on patients while others argue that it helps a person overcome harmful unwanted sexual attraction.
In a statement released Friday, Gov. Martinez argued that while she generally supported limited government, this matter was an exception.
"I do not lightly enact legislation that makes government a party to the medical care decision-making of a parent and child," stated Martinez.
"Yet, at the same time, numerous reputable medical organizations like the American Psychological Association have rebuked this practice, stating it may lead to depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem, self-hatred, substance abuse and suicide."
SOCE has been misrepresented by critics and the media, proponents of the therapy argue.
In a March 17 op-ed for The Christian Post, Christopher Doyle, an ex-gay licensed clinical professional counselor, wrote, "Gay conversion therapy is a made-up term coined by gay activists to describe a practice where a client is changed from gay to straight — often involving teenagers, against their will, and usually in the case where a religious or unaccepting parent is the impetus. In my clinical experience, I have worked with hundreds of parents and teenagers struggling with sexual and gender identity. Not once have I ever allowed a parent to force or manipulate their child to change.
"As a former homosexual and licensed psychotherapist that specializes in sexual and gender identity, I understand that same-sex attractions and gender confusion are the result of many underlying factors; and when parents heal the wounds and work through dysfunctional patterns within the family, relational and emotional healing occurs with the child. In some cases, this results in a redefinition or new understanding for the child struggling with sexual and gender issues — even a change in the way he or she identifies."
SB 121 was introduced in January by Democrat state Senators Andres Romero and Jacob Candelaria, the latter of whom is openly gay.
"It is unlawful within the meaning of the Unfair Practices Act to ... provide conversion therapy to any person under eighteen years of age in exchange for monetary compensation for the conversion therapy," read the bill in part.
In a statement from January as reported by KRQE News 13, Sen. Candelaria labeled conversion therapy a "dangerous practice" and called those who provide such therapy "snake oil peddlers."
"The reality is every child in New Mexico is born perfect. No gay child in this state needs to be cured," stated Candelaria earlier this year.
SB 121 had its share of critics, including Republican House of Representatives member David Gallegos, who argued that the bill deprived youth of choosing to undergo the therapy.
"If some are willing and wanting to change, why should the state take away their right to get help?" stated Gallegos during the hours-long debate in the New Mexico House.
New Mexico joins California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. as parts of the country that ban the practice for minors.
Several others states including Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia have entertained similar legislation, but voted them down.
Regarding Oregon's debate in 2015 over their conversion therapy bill, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays Executive Director Regina Griggs stated that such laws interfere with personal choice.
"No one should be prevented from getting the help they want, and our society should allow every child and every person the freedom to be whoever they aspire to be," said Griggs in a statement from 2015.
"We know that change is possible, and sometimes, talk therapy is the path that leads to a journey of hope for change and help to overcome unresolved feelings."