Minnesota House votes to ban LGBTQ youth conversion therapy

A person stands at a podium and speaks
Kat Rohn, executive director of OutFront Minnesota, appears with state lawmakers to discuss a bill that would outlaw conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth and vulnerable adults. The House passed the legislation Monday.
Brian Bakst | MPR News

The Minnesota House of Representatives passed a bill Monday with bipartisan support that bans what’s called conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth and “vulnerable adults.”

After hours of at times emotional debate, the DFL-led chamber voted 81-47 to prohibit mental health professionals from providing therapy aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Those who engage in the practice with vulnerable adults or those under the age of 18 would be subject to discipline from a professional licensing board under the proposal. The practice is widely discredited by physicians.

Similar proposals have passed in the Minnesota House several times before but met a wall in the GOP-led Minnesota Senate. With DFL in control of both chambers and the governor’s office, the bill’s supporters said they were hopeful that it will become law this year.

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DFL leaders in the Senate have said they support the bill and are set to weigh it soon. And Gov. Tim Walz has said he will sign it if it reaches his desk.

The bill’s supporters, including several lawmakers who are in LGBTQ community, said the proposal was overdue. And they said it was time for the state to prohibit the practice.

“It’s been denounced by every mainstream medical and mental health organization,” said bill author Rep. Athena Hollins, DFL-St. Paul. “It preys on the fears of parents and does irreparable harm to children.”

LGBTQ advocacy groups, psychologists, medical groups and Minnesotans who’d experienced conversion therapy spoke in support of the bill on its path through legislative committees. Meanwhile, those who practice the therapy and some religious leaders opposed it, saying the bill could limit options for young people.

Rep. Brion Curran, DFL-Vadnais Heights, who is gay, said the so-called therapy does more harm than good for young Minnesotans and vulnerable people and ignores the inherent humanity of LGBTQ people.

“How many of you second guess holding your spouse’s hand in public? How many of you get advice from strangers on which public restroom to use? And how many of you with wives are often asked–Is it because you couldn’t find a husband?” Curran said. “This is the reality of being queer in America, and it comes from the notion that people can be coerced into conformity.” 

Some Republicans have said they worried the bill could stifle free speech and conversations between young people and their faith leaders or therapists. The bill only addresses mental health practitioners. 

“The way this bill is written, it oversteps the bounds into First Amendment territory and regulating speech,” Rep. Harry Niska, R-Ramsey, said. “Speech is not conduct just because the government says it is.”

Niska called the bill unconstitutional and said it would lead to lawsuits.

“We should be very careful about telling people what kind of opinions they can express,” he said.

Twenty states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have outlawed conversion therapy, as have several Minnesota cities. Walz in 2021 issued an executive order deeming the therapy dangerous and directing state agencies to prevent the practice. The governor doesn’t have the authority to ban the practice outright.