July 16, 2018
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LePage vetoes 6 new bills, including ban of ‘conversion therapy’

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
Dan MacKay of Halifax, Nova Scotia awaits the start of the 2018 Bangor Pride Parade.
By Michael Shepherd, BDN Staff
Updated:

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage vetoed six more bills Friday, endangering an effort from LGBT activists to ban so-called “conversion therapy” and adding to a pile of work for lawmakers who will have 42 vetoes to consider next week.

These are expected to be the Republican governor’s final vetoes before lawmakers are to return to Augusta Monday to try to override those vetoes, and reach a deal on several issues, including public campaign funding, a transportation borrowing package and conforming Maine to the federal tax code.

The highest-profile bill vetoed by LePage Friday was the bill that aimed to stop conversion therapy by establishing sanctions — for practitioners including psychologists, doctors, therapists and guidance counselors — from treating someone in an attempt to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The practice has been denounced by the American Psychiatric Association, which says it is “based on a view of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major mental health professions.” Now, 13 states and the District of Columbia have laws aimed at banning it, according to the Movement Advancement Project.

LePage said the proposal was overbroad in his veto letter, saying it could “call into question a simple conversation” and that physical or mental abuse is already prohibited. That echoed the viewpoint of the conservative Christian Civic League of Maine, which led 2009 and 2012 campaigns against same-sex marriage and called the original bill “Orwellian” in testimony.

Rep. Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, who is gay, sponsored the bill after he said an administrator at the Catholic university he graduated from in 2014 urged him to seek similar therapy. Rep. Matt Moonen, D-Portland, the executive director of EqualityMaine, a pro-LGBT rights group, said in a statement that LePage “chose petty politics over protecting kids” with his veto.

Other vetoed bills included two omnibus packages that would overhaul Maine’s medical marijuana program in several ways, including eliminating a list of qualifying conditions, allowing dispensaries to operate as for-profit businesses and exempting marijuana testing facilities from certain requirements. The two others revolve around jail funding and state park fees.

The Legislature will need to muster two-thirds votes in both chambers to overturn the vetoes, which also include start-up funding for Medicaid expansion. The conversion therapy bill failed to win two-thirds support in either chamber in earlier votes. The marijuana bills passed easily.

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