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Twin Cities lawmakers call for ban on 'conversion therapy'

Local lawmakers in the Twin Cities are taking it upon themselves to ban "conversion therapy."

MINNEAPOLIS — Standing together at the Lake Street-Marshall bridge between the two cities on National Coming Out Day, lawmakers from both Minneapolis and St. Paul introduced a joint resolution Friday to ban "conversion therapy" within city borders.

Phillipe Cunningham, the Ward 4 council member in Minneapolis, said he was exposed to the practice in church as a child — and doesn't want anyone else to have to go through it. "Conversion therapy" has been widely discredited by medical organizations, and many argue it is extremely harmful to children who experience it. 

"It tries to convince people," Cunningham said, "that they are not who they are."

St. Paul Council Member Mitre Nelson said that the cities would work with local organizations like OutFront Minnesota to "see if we can end this very abusive practice within the cities' borders."

This would be a first for Minnesota, but other cities across the U.S. have faced legal challenges from some religious freedom groups. New York City, for example, just repealed its ban to avoid fallout from a lawsuit that could jeopardize other conversion therapy bans.

Local lawmakers in the Twin Cities say they'll learn from that situation by wording the ordinance extremely carefully and judiciously.

"We have wonderful city attorneys who have spent a lot of time, making sure that we have thorough, strong language in our ordinance," Cunningham said.

In Tampa, a judge also just overturned a ban — arguing the issue should be left up to the state to decide. 

In Minnesota, a conversion therapy ban came up at the state capitol this year when the DFL-led House passed the measure. Despite some Republican support for the concept, the GOP-led Senate eventually voted against an amendment that would have been included in the main Health and Human Services bill. 

Some lawmakers had argued that the bill could interfere with private counseling and that the measure did not have specific enough language. A spokesperson for the Senate Republicans said the bill could come back into discussion next session. 

In a message to the state, Cunningham said: "If state legislators can't see beyond the partisan divide, it's our responsibility at the local level."

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