Mental health providers in Minnesota would be prohibited from performing conversion therapy — a discredited practice that seeks to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity — on minors and vulnerable adults under a bill passed by the state House on Monday.
The DFL-controlled House voted 81-47 to approve the bill, which also would ban medical assistance coverage of conversion therapy and prohibit providers from misrepresenting the service.
"These treatments are ineffective and lead to depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, self-harm and suicide," said state Rep. Athena Hollins, DFL-St. Paul, who sponsored the bill in the House. "We must move past the idea that queer people can choose their sexuality and gender identity and let them show up as their full, glorious, authentic selves."
The bill also must be approved by the DFL-controlled Senate before reaching Gov. Tim Walz's desk. Sen. Scott Dibble, the Minneapolis Democrat who's sponsoring the bill in that chamber, said Monday that he expects the Senate to vote on it soon.
"This practice needs to be banned," Dibble said. "It is heinous. It is abhorrent. It does active harm to people and their lives. Minnesota is better than this."
Minnesota would join 20 other states that have banned conversion therapy for minors if the bill becomes law.
If a mental health provider were to defy the proposed ban, the provider would be subject to "disciplinary action by the licensing board of the mental health practitioner or mental health professional," the bill states.
GOP Rep. Anne Neu Brindley successfully offered an amendment to the bill clarifying that the conversion therapy ban specifically applies to mental health practitioners and their patients, not in broader, more informal contexts.
"This will ensure that the bill does not apply to clergy working with members of their congregation," said Neu Brindley, R-North Branch.
The House discussion on the conversion therapy bill segued for a time to the topic of gender-transition medical services. Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, proposed and later withdrew an amendment to ban those services for minors.
"We're talking about minors here. Children who do not know what they want for dinner half the time," Franson said.
Democrats, including the state's first transgender lawmaker, Rep. Leigh Finke, criticized Franson's motion.
"You want to ban gender-affirming care for minors. What you want to do is you want to make sure minors never grow up to be me," Finke said.
The House also passed two additional bills Monday on overwhelmingly bipartisan votes aimed at preventing catalytic converter thefts and creating a new state office to investigate missing and murdered Black women and girls.
"When Black women and girls go missing, their cases stay open four times longer than their white peers," said Rep. Ruth Richardson, DFL-Mendota Heights, the bill's sponsor. "This office will implement a community-based response to address this crisis and is a blueprint for a national response."