Gay "conversion" therapy still unrestricted in Minnesota, but that may change

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Peterson Toscano
New Jersey and California have passed laws restricting ex-gay therapies. But Minnesota...
Here's a riddle: What state has same-sex marriage, but still allows therapists to tell gay teenagers that their desires are evil, in an effort to turn them straight?

The answer is: Minnesota.

See Also:
- Senate rejects effort to block tax dollars from being used for ex-gay therapy

Last week, New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie, signed a law banning licensed therapists from practicing so-called "conversion" therapies on patients under 18.

But here in the land of 10,000 gay marriages, we don't have any laws to prevent therapists like Marcus Bachmann -- whose clinic was caught practicing this kind of therapy -- from trying to convert homo kids to hetero at their parents' behest.

At least for now. Minnesota Sen. Scott Dibble -- the same guy who was a key player in passing marriage equality -- is considering another step forward: A law like New Jersey's, and a similar one in California, to restrict ex-gay therapy.

"These therapies are premised on a falsehood," Dibble explains to City Pages. "We all know that you can't change people."

But it's not just that the therapies don't work. According to leading organizations like the American Psychological Association, they're actively harmful. Dibble, who is himself gay, says that he knows the devastation of conversion efforts.
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Sen. Scott Dibble

"A number of us -- of gay people -- can relate very strongly," he says. "We know from our own lived experience how destructive it is to try to not be who you are. That's my story of course, it's many gay people's story."

Exactly how many licensed therapists practice this kind of therapy in Minnesota is hard to pin down. According to several people working in the field, many clinics, like Bachmann's, don't announce that they're doing it.

But Minnesota is known to have an active ex-gay community, says Wayne Besen, the director of Truth Wins Out, the leading national organization working against this kind of treatment.

"Minnesota is a place where we have seen these therapies," Besen says, citing Bachmann's clinic, local gay conversion activist Janet Boynes, and the now-defunct Exodus movement. "It's very difficult to keep an accurate count on how many, but we know it's a problem and we know it's hurting people."

Over the next year, Besen says, Minnesota is going to be one of the states where his organization works to introduce and advance legislation.

He's not alone. While Dibble notes that he's still assessing different variables, he says he is looking into introducing a bill that would "protect vulnerable people."

"I'm very interested in doing something so we can somehow protect kids from this kind of active harm," Dibble says. "If we can pursue it in the coming year, I will."

-- Reach Olivia LaVecchia at olavecchia@citypages.com or on Twitter at @olavecchia



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