“Ex-gay” therapy ban for minors fails at MN Capitol, activists promise reprise in 2015



Legislation that would ban reparative therapy failed in the Minnesota Legislature in 2014 after pressure from “ex-gay” organizations.

In early 2014, it looked likely that a ban on harmful “reparative therapy” for minors would pass in a Legislature that a year before had passed marriage equality, but as the deadline to pass the bill expired last week, and the bill has effectively died. Ex-gay groups mounted significant pressure on legislators to stop the bill, sending petitions and emails to lawmakers and hitting the conservative radio circuit. They declared victory this week.

“The bill is officially dead for this session as it has missed committee deadlines,” Gabe Aderhold told TheColu.mn. Aderhold and fellow University of Minnesota student Alec Fischer have been pushing for the bill. Late last year, the two created a petition with more than 114,000 signatures urging lawmakers to ban “ex-gay” therapy with minors. Aderhold and Fischer were successful in getting the bills introduced this session. California and New Jersey have enacted similar laws, and a half dozen other states are considering similar legislation.

“The votes were there in the Senate committee, but Tina Liebling, chair of the Health and Human Service Policy Committee in the House would not hear the bill. She cited lack of time and not wanting to regulate the industry — leave it up to the licensing boards, etc — as her reasoning,” Aderhold told TheColu.mn.

“With further investigation, Alec and I found that dozens of emails were being sent to lawmakers from folks around the country asking lawmakers to kill the bill before committee,” he said. “We do not know what organization or group sent out these emails, but there were many and they had a generic response.”

One such group is Pro-Family Forum. That group was formed out of the ashes of the Pro-Marriage Amendment Forum, a team effort between “ex-gay” Kevin Peterson and Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen. The duo created controversy last year during the marriage amendment battle when Gruenhagen tried to use a “point of privilege” to have Peterson tell his “ex-gay” story on the floor of the Minnesota House.

The DFL majority in that chamber were outraged with some calling it “very offensive.”

After the passage of marriage equality in Minnesota, the Pro-Family Forum appears to have transitioned to “ex-gay” causes. The group created a petition that generated 176 signatures.

It facilitated the distribution of a letter from the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality urging Minnesota legislators to drop the bill.

The PFF also promoted a letter from the American College of Pediatricians, which is not to be confused with the American Academy of Pediatrics. The former is a small splinter group of socially conservative physicians who have misrepresented valid research on LGBT people. The latter is a well-respected professional organization relying on sound science to draw conclusions.

Pro-Family Forum issued a press release last week, just before the committee deadline, in which Peterson made some startling claims.

“Should HF 1906/SF 1727 become law, children who are molested and develop homosexual feelings as a result of that abuse will be denied access to highly qualified professional counselors who are trained on how to treat trauma and help clients resolve accompanying SSA. It is clear from multiple studies in the scientific peer-reviewed literature that same-sex attracted individuals are more likely to be victims of sexual abuse than heterosexuals. In effect, this legislation will result in a child being raped twice – first by the perpetrator and then again by the political environment, which refuses to treat the child unless he sees a gay-affirming therapist.”

In a recent interview with Tim Kinley on the conservative public access show Speechless, Peterson noted that PFF is “a group of families and even some representatives in Minnesota who put this group together to support sexual orientation change efforts.”

Peterson’s group vowed to block efforts in 2015, which LGBT advocates promise to bring forward.

“The next steps are to build a broader base of support and raise greater awareness,” said Aderhold. “We will be back during the 2015 legislative session to try again. The session is longer and we will have more time to ‘whip the votes’ so to speak. The downsides to waiting another year are that more children will be subjected to this terrible ‘therapy,’ and the risk of a GOP house majority coming in and blocking the bill. Or a GOP governor, but that is something we could work with.”

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Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, Vita.mn and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.


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