On Thursday, the state of Maryland took a major step for LGBTQ rights, as the state's legislature voted to ban so-called gay conversion therapy. In the process, a member of the state's house of delegates shared a deeply personal story about her own experience, one that's gotten a lot of attention. Basically, in the midst of Maryland's vote to ban gay conversion therapy on minors, bisexual delegate Meagan Simonaire opened up about how her own father, who is also a Maryland lawmaker, encouraged her to try conversion therapy.
Simonaire's father, Maryland state Senator Bryan Simonaire, voted against banning gay conversion therapy last week; to be clear, they both work in separate legislative bodies. For the record, according to The Washington Post, the state senator denies that he suggested his daughter undergo conversion therapy, maintaining that he and Simonaire's mother suggested "Christian counseling." He has claimed his daughter decided to come out as an adult at age 26, after she'd already been elected to serve in the state's house of delegates, and denies that any "coercion or pressure" was applied to her.
In a speech just prior to the passage of the bill, Simonaire first detailed her own story in the abstract, referring to a "girl" who realized she was bisexual, and who was urged to seek counseling when she finally came out to her parents.
"I want to tell you about a girl who grew up in the best family she could imagine," Simonaire said, in a video posted by The Capital Gazette. "She had the most loving parents, siblings who became her best friends, and childhood memories so beautiful to last a lifetime. When she was a teenager, she was attracted to boys, like many other of her friends, but she also found herself attracted to other girls."
"She fell in love with a girl, and kept it from her family out of fear of losing them. Fear of losing her family was too much, and she ended the relationship after a year," she continued. "She wondered what her family would do if she were true to herself. She finally told her family about the relationship.
"Her worst fears came true. Her parents were heartbroken and disgusted by her devious actions. They weren't ever hateful by any means, but they were fully convinced that she was living in sin, and desperately wanted to get her the help that she needed."
"Conversion therapy was their answer to help their precious baby girl. Like good parents who wanted the best for their child, they researched one of the best conversion therapy providers," Simonaire said, with evident emotion. "While she never actually had to endure the 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 indeed depression. There were times when she seemingly could not stop the tears from falling."
As she came to the end of her statement, Simonaire revealed that she herself, in fact, was the girl she was referring to. She said that her speaking out would be worth it, if it kept one child from experiencing what she did.
"Mr. Speaker, I urge the body to vote in favor of this bill, because I never want another child to go through the situation that this girl did. If this bill keeps even one child from that, it will be worth sharing my story with you today."
Following the passage of the bill ― it cleared by a final tally of 95 to 27 ― the house of delegates gave Simonaire a standing ovation. The bill still needs to be signed by the state's Republican governor, Larry Hogan, to become law, but from the sounds of things that's going to happen. According to NBC News, a spokesperson for Hogan has confirmed that he supports the bill.