Minnesota House OKs 'conversion therapy' ban for LGBTQ minors
The practice has come under fire for its negative impacts and lack of evidence that it works.
ST. PAUL — The Minnesota House on Monday, Feb. 20, passed a ban on so-called conversion therapy for minors in Minnesota, placing the bill one step closer to the governor's desk.
Conversion therapy, sometimes called “reparative therapy,” is a practice that attempts to change a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation, which has come under fire for its negative impacts on LGBTQ youth and lack of evidence that it works.
A proposal sponsored by St. Paul Democratic-Farmer-Labor Rep. Athena Hollins and companion legislation in the Senate would ban conversion therapy for people under 18 and vulnerable adults in Minnesota. The measure passed the House on Monday night, 81-47.
“Minnesota has long been a champion for queer rights, and we have the chance to continue leading on this issue by passing this bill,” she told reporters at a Capitol news conference ahead of debate on the House floor.
Specifically, the bill prohibits “offering conversion therapy in a way that represents homosexuality as a mental disease, disorder, or illness” or therapy that “guarantees changing sexual orientation or gender identity.” The bill establishes that licensing boards may take action against mental health professionals for doing so.
The American Medical Association has said conversion therapy can result in “significant psychological distress,” depression, anxiety, self-blame, lowered self-esteem and sexual dysfunction.
The AMA and the American Academy of Pediatrics oppose the practice for minors due to its potential for harm. More than 20 states already have restrictions on the practice, and cities including Duluth, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Rochester have bans of their own.
LGBT activist group Born Perfect estimates there are more than 60 therapists in Minnesota currently providing conversion therapy, 40 of whom are licensed.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz in July 2021 signed an executive order restricting conversion therapy in Minnesota, calling it a “Byzantine, tortuous practice.” His order restricted state health care programs and insurers from covering conversion therapy, but did not outright ban the practice.
Past efforts to ban the practice failed in a Legislature with control divided between Democrats and Republicans. DFLers now have complete control of state government, and Walz has signaled he would sign legislation banning conversion therapy for minors in Minnesota.
In a January hearing on the bill, Republicans on the House Human Services committee expressed concerns about minors receiving “gender-affirming care” — treatments such as hormones and surgery to help a transgender person gain physical features which align with their gender identity. They introduced an amendment to the conversion therapy ban bill banning the treatments for anyone under 18, which failed on party lines.
“We ought to have a balance where we hear the challenges of parents scared for their children’s future when many of them have been confused for a bit and then are not,” said Rep. Dave Baker, a Willmar Republican. “It’s that period of time that’s very, very, very tenuous and very confusing. Puberty is raging inside them and they don’t know what to feel.”
Sen. Scott Dibble, the author of the 2013 bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Minnesota, said he was reasonably confident his version of the conversion therapy ban bill would pass in the Senate. He said the earliest it could come up for a vote is Thursday and told reporters he believed some Republicans might join Democrats in voting for the bill.
“This practice needs to be banned — it's heinous, it's abhorrent, it does active harm to people and their lives," Dibble said on Monday. "Minnesota is better than this.”
In addition to the conversion therapy ban bill, the House also planned to vote Monday night on a proposal to create an office dedicated to investigating cases of missing and murdered Black women and girls. The bill sponsored by Rep. Ruth Richardson, DFL-Mendota Heights, appropriates $2 million over the next four years to the office.
Representatives were also set to vote on a bill aimed at curbing catalytic converter thefts by creating new scrap sale rules and penalties. Similar legislation is moving through the Senate.
This story was updated at 8:15 p.m. Feb. 20 with the vote. It was originally posted at 4:18 p.m. Feb. 20.