WISE thanks and applauds courageous Delegate Simmonaire for speaking out!
By Chase Cookccook@capgaznews.com
Del. Meagan Simonaire said in a speech Wednesday she would vote for a ban on conversion therapy for homosexuality and revealed that her father — state Sen. Bryan Simonaire — asked her to try the discredited treatment after she revealed she was bisexual.
The Republican from Pasadena, who is not seeking re-election after one term, split with her father over the measure. The senator tried to block the ban on the Senate floor last week, saying families should have the right to use “loving” conversion therapy. The bill bans licensed medical professionals from practicing the therapy on minors.
Simonaire told a “girl’s” story on the House floor as the measure was being debated, but ended the speech with the phrase “my story.” She said she supported the bill to protect children who could be at risk of suicide due to the therapy.
She said she was attracted to both men and women but ended a relationship with a woman she loved for fear of losing her family.
Upon telling her family about her attraction to women, they were “heartbroken” and “disgusted” and sought conversion therapy as an answer, she said.
“They weren’t ever hateful … but were fully convinced that she was living in sin and desperately wanted to get her the “help she needed,” Simonaire said on the floor.
“While she never actually had to endure conversion therapy, the pain of having her good-intentioned parents convinced of its ability to ‘fix her’ was enough to cause significant pain, self-loathing and deep depression. There were times where she seemingly couldn’t stop the tears from falling.”
Simonaire declined to comment after her speech except to confirm she was the “girl” in the story.
The House of Delegates voted 95-27 in favor of Senate Bill 1028. The Senate passed the bill last week and it now goes before Gov. Larry Hogan. It bans conversion therapy by licensed medical professionals on minors. It also prohibits the use of state funds for support or referral of the practice.
After his daughter’s speech, Bryan Simonaire disputed that his family sought conversion therapy, saying the term never came up and there was no attempt to make his daughter straight. She approached the family when she was 26 and had joint family conversations as well as talks with her mother that he was not privy too, he said.
Christian counselors were brought up as part of that discussion but Simonaire said he doesn’t think his daughter ever attended.
The senator said he doesn’t agree with his daughter’s “lifestyle” and that he “loves her and always will.”
“I have always taught my children to be free thinkers, and she is an adult and thinks about every vote, which I respect,” he said. “It was a dialogue between an adult child and their parent. (Never said) to ‘do this or we won’t love you.’”
Conversion therapy is a medically discredited practice in which a health care professional aims to convert someone from gay to straight or have them resist or revert a gender change. Medical groups report this practice is most common in religious and conservative families, some of whom believe homosexuality is a sin. A 2018 report estimated about 700,000 Americans were subjected to the therapy, according to The Williams Institute UCLA School of Law. That same report estimated 20,000 LGBTQ youth would receive the treatment from a licensed health care professional.
The bill does not bar religious families from using the therapy, but they can’t do so with licensed workers.
Sen. Simonaire raised concerns the bill would drive those religious families to unlicensed, inexperienced workers. He also stated he supported conversion therapy as long as the child was willing and the therapy is done in a “loving” way.
Del. Simonaire said in her speech that her family was trying to look out for her best interest, but repeated the mantra “what is not broken cannot be fixed.”
“Like good parents who wanted the best for their child, they researched ‘one of the best’ conversion therapy providers,” she said.
After the bill was passed, the delegates stood, faced Simonaire and applauded her.
The Senate version of the conversion therapy bill was introduced by Sen. Richard Madaleno Jr., a Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Montgomery County senator. The House bill was introduced by Del. Bonnie Cullison, D-Montgomery County.
Madaleno entered the House chamber near the end of Simonaire’s comments to see the vote and listen to the rest of her speech. Madaleno said conversion therapy is cruel and during the Senate debate labeled it abusive.
“It is always moving when someone shares their personal story,” Madaleno said. “Something that is not broken cannot be fixed.”
Conservative delegates raised concerns about the bill’s effects and its impact on religious families.
Del. Neil Parrott, R-Washington County, said the bill interfered with the relationship between children and their counselors.
“This bill is about indoctrination,” Parrot said from the floor. “I don’t believe this is in the best interest of children.”
Some of the Anne Arundel County delegates applauded Simonaire on her comments. The only Anne Arundel County delegate to vote against the bill was Del. Tony McConkey, R-Severna Park.
Del. Herb McMillan, R-Annapolis, voted in support of the bill and lauded Simonaire for her speech. He and Simonaire were the only county republicans that voted for the bill. Besides McConkey, the rest of the county’s republican delegates abstained from the vote.
“I was touched by it. It was very powerful. She is a dear friend; I’ve told her many times that she reminds me of my youngest daughter,” McMillan said. “We share many of the same political views, and I love her spirit and that she thinks for herself. It’s a great loss that she isn’t running again because she personified the young face of the Republican Party. She will be missed.”