ST PAUL, Minn. — Governor Tim Walz added the state of Minnesota to growing list of states that restrict a controversial, and what many say is a discredited practice called conversion therapy.
Conversion therapy is a practice that attempts to change a person's sexual orientation to heterosexual using psychological, physical, or spiritual "interventions."
At a news conference late Thursday morning Walz signed Executive Order 21-25, which restricts conversion therapy for minors and vulnerable adults.
Among other actions the state will ask providers to not fund the therapy, and will investigate and pursue civil enforcement actions against health care providers who engage in discriminatory practices related to conversion therapy.
“Our kids deserve to grow up in a state that values them for who they are – not one that tries to change them,” said Governor Walz in a statement before signing the order. “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 American Medical Association, The American Academy of Pediatrics, and The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology have all stated publicly that there is no scientific evidence saying this kind of therapy works, and that it has negative effects on the LGBTQ youth sent there.
"The experiences I had there were hard, they were barbaric," said Junior Avalos, who went through conversion therapy and spoke with KARE 11 about it in 2019. "There was stuff I wouldn't wish upon anyone else. One of most painful memories was to practice male mannerisms and masculine mannerisms so I had to lower my voice, I had to put my hands in certain positions in my body and if I didn't, if my voice got too high or my wrist went limp I risk getting physically assaulted."
Minneapolis was the first city to enact a ban in 2019. It has since been followed by other cities like St. Paul and Duluth.
Not everyone is on board with the executive action. “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.”
The Minnesota Family Council calls the order “executive overreach,” and an attack on the constitutional rights of patients, families and therapists.
The state's legislature has attempted to pass a bill banning the practice, but has been unable to gain passage. Those at Thursday's press conference said the executive order is a first step and called on the Legislature to make it permanent.