Minnesota becomes 21st state to ban dangerous 'conversion therapy'

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The governor signed an executive order on Thursday morning banning the harmful practice.

The Democratic governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, signed an executive order banning the anti-LGBTQ practice of "conversion therapy" for people under age 18 on Thursday morning.

"Conversion therapy" is a practice that aims to change LGBTQ people's sexual orientation or gender, or change the behavior of patients so that they no longer express their LGBTQ identities.

The American Psychiatric Association opposes "conversion therapy," and said in 2013 of the so-called treatment, "The American Psychiatric Association does not believe that same-sex orientation should or needs to be changed, and efforts to do so represent a significant risk of harm by subjecting individuals to forms of treatment which have not been scientifically validated and by undermining self-esteem when sexual orientation fails to change."

A survey released in May from the Trevor Project, a group that advocates for the mental health needs of LGBTQ youth, found that LGBTQ youth were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide if they were put through "conversion therapy" and 13% of LGBTQ youth said they experienced the practice in the past year.

During a press conference on Thursday, Walz announced the executive order.

"We're here today to sign an executive order banning the discredited, byzantine, and quite honestly very harmful practice of conversion therapy, the idea that you would change someone, who they are, through practices that are not supported by any legitimate organization," Walz said.

Walz added that this is a "first step" and that conversion therapy should eventually be banned legislatively.

"We will instruct state agencies to use their authority to restrict practices, such as making sure that insurance companies are not reimbursed for those practices and ensure we are putting everything in place so that the scope of what these agencies can do is focused on existing law," he said, adding, "There is no place for hate in our state."

According to LGBTQ groups that track bans on "conversion therapy," 20 states, including California, Illinois, Oregon, and Utah, prohibit the practice for minors. In 2012, California became the first state to pass such a ban. Ten states have enacted these laws since 2017.

The Minnesota Legislature is politically divided, with Democrats controlling the state House and Republicans controlling the state Senate.

A ban on "conversion therapy" passed the Minnesota House in 2019 but failed to get through its Senate. Senate Republicans claimed that religious freedom was being put at risk through a prohibition on the practice.

There is no federal ban on "conversion therapy." The Equality Act, a sweeping federal LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill that passed the House in February but has not yet received a vote in the Senate, includes a provision that says, "The discredited practice known as 'conversion therapy' is a form of discrimination that harms LGBTQ people by undermining individuals' sense of self-worth, increasing suicide ideation and substance abuse, exacerbating family conflict, and contributing to second-class status."

A few cities in Minnesota had already banned the practice on the local level before the governor signed the executive order, according to an ABC affiliate in the state. The Minneapolis City Council prohibited it in 2019, and Duluth followed a month later.

Among the hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills Republicans pushed in legislatures this year, GOP lawmakers also tried to pass bills to protect "conversion therapy," including Republicans in Arizona, Texas, and Oklahoma, HuffPost reported.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.