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Conversion therapy ban bill falls short in Minnesota Senate

DFL lawmakers attempted to force the bill straight out of committee onto the Senate floor for debate, but it failed to garner the required supermajority.

ST PAUL, Minn. — A bill that would ban conversion therapy in Minnesota will remain locked in a Senate committee without any path forward.

Sen. Scott Dibble, a Minneapolis Democrat who is gay, attempted a parliamentary maneuver Thursday to force the bill out of committee and to the Senate floor. Those types of motions, to declare an urgency, require a supermajority of 41 votes in the 67-member body.

RELATED: Conversion therapy: When did it enter our conversation space?

Dibble's motion attracted 34 votes, including some Republicans, which would be enough to pass a bill under normal circumstances. But it wasn't enough to suspend the rules and get the bill to the floor for debate.

"The reason it rises to that level of urgency is the obvious reason that young people today are suffering from a barbaric, discredited practice and being forced to endure tremendous harm," Sen. Dibble told reporters after the failed effort.

"The other reason is because there’s a big movement afoot right now in the legislature to really address issues of mental health."

None of the Republicans who voted against Dibbles motions spoke on the issue before the vote.  Dibble said a lot of misconceptions still exist about the bill. He said some Republicans still believe it violates religious freedom, despite the fact that it only applies to licensed therapists.

Gov. Walz signed an executive order last year banning the practice in Minnesota, but an actual law on the books would be easier to enforce, according to lawmakers.

"To get these 34 votes it’s the people that have paid attention," Sen. Jim Carlson, an Eagan Democrat, explained.

"But there are a lot of other people that have not paid attention and that’s one of the things Senator Dibble was trying to do, is to bring this in front of people so they can learn about it."

One reporter at a capitol press conference asked whether banning conversion therapy will deprive people who are struggling with their sexual identity the counseling they need.

Sen. Susan Kent, a Woodbury Democrat, countered that conversion therapy has been discredited by the medical community.

"This so-called therapy of converting people has been completely discredited and is no longer a recognized practice, medically. It’s just politically it still is," Sen. Kent remarked.

"If we really care about our kids and want them to be strong and secure in their identities we can get them sound, medically advised treatment. But that’s not what this is."

Dibble said he had hopes earlier in the session that a different package of Senate legislation would include money to pay for treatment of teens, including those who have been traumatized by therapy designed to change their orientation or enforce the notion of that being heterosexual is the desired norm.

But that hasn't happened, which is one of the reasons he felt compelled to try to force the issue with the conversion therapy bill.

RELATED: Five tips on how to talk to your kids about mental health struggles

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