Walz signs order restricting conversion therapy

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Gov. Tim Walz bypassed the Minnesota Legislature and restricted conversion therapy in the state on Thursday.

Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan participated in a signing ceremony for an executive order on Thursday morning.

Conversion therapy, also known as "reparative therapy," refers to a counseling practice that seeks to change a patient’s gender or sexual orientation. Every leading medical and scientific association including the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and National Education Association have strongly and uniformly rejected conversion therapy for minors, citing its harmful effects on the long-term mental health of LGBTQ+ youth.

"Our kids deserve to grow up in a state that values them for who they are – not one that tries to change them," said Walz. "This executive order aims to protect young and vulnerable Minnesotans from the cruel and discredited practice of conversion therapy and affirms that the LGBTQ+ community is an integral part of One Minnesota. This is not the end of our work to see this practice become a thing of the past. We will continue to fight for love over hate every single day."

The order will protect LGBTQ+ youth from conversion therapy, something the Republican-controlled Minnesota Senate has pushed back on. Conversion therapy has already been banned by some cities in the state, including Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth.

A total of 23 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have taken actions against conversion therapy.

"No one should ever be told that they need to change who they are to be deserving of love and acceptance, especially our children. It’s our job to make sure our LGBTQ+ relatives, friends, and neighbors know they are valued and loved members of our community," Flanagan said. "I’m tremendously grateful to the survivors who have shared their heartbreaking stories to inspire action, the advocates who never stopped pushing for this change, and the legislators who have authored and carried bills through the House and Senate over the years. We call on our partners in the Legislature to move a comprehensive ban on conversion therapy across the finish line – but we will not wait to do what’s right."

The executive order restricts the practice of conversion therapy in Minnesota by directing state agencies to take the following actions:

  • The Minnesota Department of Health and the Department of Commerce will request attestations from health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and health plan companies that they do not cover conversion therapy and pursue administrative remedies against HMOs and health plan companies that engage in unfair business practices related to conversion therapy. In addition, both departments will also engage in rule making as necessary to restrict coverage of conversion therapy.
  • MDH will prepare a report on the public health impacts of conversion therapy.
  • The Minnesota Department of Human Services will not pay for conversion therapy services through Minnesota Health Care Programs such as Medicaid and will pursue recovery for payment for conversion therapy services.
  • The Minnesota Department of Human Rights will investigate and pursue civil enforcement actions against health care providers who are engaged in discriminatory practices related to conversion therapy.

Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis) has been a fierce advocate and the chief author of legislation that bans the use of conversion therapy in the state. He was present at the press conference held at the Minnesota Capitol Thursday morning.

"I am proud to stand with Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan today as he signs this historical order ending this practice that should have been banned a long time ago. This order signals to the LGBTQ+ youth that our government believes they are perfect and wonderful just the way they are. We have long known that being LGBTQ+ is not a disorder, nor a mental illness," Dibble said. "Today marks a fantastic first step in affirming this for all LGBTQ+ people in Minnesota. While there is still further action for the Legislature to take codifying these protections, I rejoice for all the young people who look to their government today and feel that we truly have their best interests at heart."

However, some oppose the Walz Administration’s move regarding conversion therapy.

"This executive order will not end so-called ‘conversion therapy,’ since professional standards in mental health care already did that years ago. Instead, this will ban young people experiencing unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria from getting the voluntary, compassionate care they need," said John Helmberger, CEO of Minnesota Family Council. "In legislative hearings, we’ve heard the courageous testimony of many men and women who have had great, life-changing experiences with this type of counseling. At the end of the day, the governor’s actions will hurt patients seeking to get the care they want."

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