The Minnesota House of Representatives passed legislation Monday, with bipartisan support, banning so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth and “vulnerable adults.”
After hours of sometimes emotional debate, the DFL-led chamber voted 81 to 47 to ban mental health professionals from administering therapies to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Those who engage in practice with vulnerable adults or those under the age of 18 would be disciplined by a professional admissions committee under the proposal. The practice is widely discredited by doctors.
Similar proposals have passed the Minnesota House several times before, but met a brick wall in the GOP-led Minnesota Senate. With the DFL controlling both chambers and the governor’s office, supporters of the bill said they were confident it would go into effect later this year.
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The DFL leadership in the Senate has stated that it supports the bill and will consider it soon. And Governor Tim Walz has said he will sign it when it reaches his desk.
Supporters of the bill, including several lawmakers who are in the LGBTQ community, said the proposal was overdue. And they said it was time for the state to ban the practice.
“It has been denounced by all mainstream medical and mental health organizations,” said the bill’s author, Representative Athena Hollins, DFL-St. Paul. “It plays on parents’ fears and does irreparable harm to children.”
LGBTQ advocacy groups, psychologists, medical groups and Minnesotans who had undergone conversion therapy all voiced support for the bill as it made its way through Legislative Committees. Meanwhile, those who practice the therapy and some religious leaders opposed it, saying the law could limit opportunities for young people.
Rep. Brion Curran, DFL-Vadnais Heights, who is gay, said the so-called therapy does more harm than good to young Minnesotans and vulnerable people and ignores the inherent humanity of LGBTQ people.
“How many of you suspect you hold your spouse’s hand in public? How many of you take advice from strangers about which public restroom to use? And how many of you with wives are often asked, ‘Is it because you couldn’t find a husband?’ said Curran. “That’s the reality of being queer in America, and it comes from the idea that people can be forced into conformity.”
Some Republicans have said they fear the bill could stifle free speech and conversations between young people and their faith leaders or therapists. The bill only targets psychiatrists.
“The way this law is written goes beyond the bounds of First Amendment territory and language regulation,” said Rep. Harry Niska, R-Ramsey. “Speech is not behavior just because the government says so.”
Niska called the law unconstitutional and said it would lead to lawsuits.
“We should be very careful about telling people what kind of opinions they can express,” he said.
Twenty states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have banned conversion therapy, as have several Minnesota cities. Walz issued an executive order in 2021, deeming the therapy dangerous and directing government agencies to discourage the practice. The governor does not have the power to ban the practice outright.