MN bill would ban “conversion therapy” for minors

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Minnesota state representative Susan Allen (D-Minneapolis) has introduced a bill, MN HF1906, that would ban licensed therapists from attempting “Sexual Orientation Change Efforts” (SOCE) on minors.

According to the Huffington Post, Allen’s 2012 win at the polls made Minnesota the first state in the nation to elect an openly gay Native American woman to its legislature.

The “ex-gay” movement, which claims homosexuality can be “cured” through religious-based therapy, has existed since the 1970s. Proof of its “success” is limited, with many spokespeople in the movement later retracting their claims of heterosexuality or being spotted in a gay venue. Critics deride it for only teaching people to suppress their feelings at the cost of their mental health; such programs have been directly linked to depression and suicide in participants.

In 2009, the American Psychological Association released an official report, titled “Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation,” stating that it was “unlikely” that SOCE can achieve any of its stated goals, and that they “found that there was some evidence to indicate that individuals experienced harm… negative side effects included loss of sexual feeling, depression, suicidality, and anxiety.”

Speaking to Capitol Report host Julie Bartkey, Allen said, “If you look at over the period of the last five years, they’ve sort of changed the way they advertise their services. It’s not as obvious anymore that some of the Christian, sort of, based mental health services that offer this type of therapy. It’s just sort of given that it’s part of their family therapy. So it is prevalent, and it is a nationwide problem.”

One counselor well-known for offering SOCE to clients is the husband of 6th District Congresswoman Rep. Michele Bachmann, Counseling Care president Dr. Marcus Bachmann. In a 2011 interview with the Star Tribune, Dr. Bachmann said the clinic, then called Bachmann & Associates Inc, is not “focused” on conversion therapy, but confirmed it is offered to those who seek it—after previously denying same. At present, the business’ website does not mention SOCE.

MN HF1906 would only ban the practice for clients under eighteen, and only apply to licensed practitioners already subject to state law. Minnesota’s licensing boards would be charged with the responsibility of enforcement. Allen said, “We don’t dictate the terms of what the discipline should be [for those found in violation], but we do deem it that it is prohibited and that it is something that needs to be regulated.”

Bans on SOCE for minors are in place in California and New Jersey, and have been proposed in New York and Maryland as well.

An overview of MN HF1906, including its full text, can be read here.

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