Senate passes legislation to ban conversion therapy, “Lift the Cap” on kids, and protect women’s health

BOSTON – On March 28, the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation that reaffirms the Commonwealth’s commitment to providing support for women, members of the LGBTQ community, and children and families in need. The Senate also gave final approval to a $135.9 million supplemental budget for the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19).

“The Senate showed its strong commitment today to our children and families, LGBTQIA+ community, and women by repealing an outdated policy that hurts families, banning an ineffective, inhumane and morally wrong therapy practice, and protecting vital access to family planning and reproductive healthcare services for over 75,000 residents.” said Senator Friedman (D-Arlington). “I’m grateful for Senate President Spilka and my Senate colleagues for keeping these initiatives at the forefront of our legislative agenda this session.”

Lifting the “Cap on Kids”

The Massachusetts ‘Cap on Kids’ policy was established in 1995 and was designed to discourage welfare clients from having additional children while receiving aid by excluding additional children from the calculation of benefits. The legislation passed Thursday repeals this ineffective policy. The new policy would start September 1, 2019, and makes the repeal retroactive to January 1, 2019.

Upon implementation, those 8,700 children who are, or would be, excluded from grant calculations will now be included, resulting in higher monthly benefits for their families. The FY19 budget already provides funding for this change, which was included in the House and Senate conference committee report but vetoed by the Governor.

Conversion Therapy

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia currently ban conversion therapy, an intervention practice used to reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction and transgender identity using controversial methods. Those methods often involve traumatizing practices that can lead to depression, substance use disorder, social withdrawal, and suicide. The legislation passed by the Senate would prohibit licensed mental health professionals from using conversion therapy and would instead promote therapies that encourage self-exploration and social support. 

Title X

Massachusetts entities which receive Title X federal funding, used for reproductive, family planning and women’s health services, are poised to lose up to $8 million dollars over fiscal years 2019 and 2020. The loss of funding would be the consequence of new rules set by the Trump administration. The Legislature’s action would provide $8 million in emergency funding to support these entities, allowing the state to offset possible reductions and help preserve services provided to nearly 80,000 individuals across the Commonwealth.

Supplemental FY 2019 Budget

The proposed supplemental budget for FY19 includes:

  • $30M for the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program;
  • $10M for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters;
  • $8M to assist municipalities in testing sexual assault kits; and

$1M for SANE and Pedi-SANE Programs.The supplemental budget also addresses a number of time-sensitive spending and policy items.

Legislation concerning the ‘Cap on Kids’ and prohibiting conversion therapy was sent back to the House for approval. Bills concerning Title X funding and the supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2019 now go to the Governor for consideration. 

Senator Friedman represents the 4th Middlesex district, which includes Arlington, Billerica, Burlington, Woburn and precincts 1-2 and 4-7 in Lexington.