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Republican Lawmakers Vote (Again) to Allow Conversion Therapy

Republican Lawmakers Vote (Again) to Allow Conversion Therapy

Rep. Adam Neylon

While opponents say the issue is about protecting LGBTQ+ youth, Wisconsin Republicans claim they are fighting a bureaucratic turf war.

Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin on Tuesday used a vote on proposed legislation yesterday to, in effect, permit the continued use of the discredited and harmful practice of so-called "conversion therapy" in the state.

The Republicans on the Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules had earlier suspended a ban on the practice made last December by the state’s Marriage and Family Therapy, Professional Counseling, and Social Work Examining Board, saying the board had overstepped its authority.

Republican legislators introduced a bill codifying their decision into law, but the bill faced an uncertain future with Gov. Tony Evans, a Democrat. By voting to send the bill back to a committee rather than a possible veto from the governor, Republicans prevented the ban on conversion therapy from going into effect.

Opponents of conversion therapy reacted angrily to the news.

“Conversion therapy is wrong,” Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer, a Democrat from Racine, declared during a speech on the Assembly floor. “You know it’s wrong, I know it’s wrong.”

RELATED: Man Says BetterHelp Referred Him to Conversion Therapy Supporter

This is not the first time Republicans have stopped the Marriage and Family Therapy, Professional Counseling, and Social Work Examining Board, which creates the code of ethics for certificate holders and licensees in Wisconsin, from enforcing its rule in 2020 banning conversion therapy. The committee initially blocked the rule, but the rule went back into effect last year on December 1 when a bill dealing with the issue was not formally passed during the legislative session. The committee voted along party lines in January to again block the rule.

The Republican chair of the rules committee, Rep. Adam Neylon of Pewaukee, has long contended the issue is about bureaucratic overreach rather than support for conversion therapy.

“We’re not here specifically to discuss the merits of any conversion therapy or any other type of therapy,” Neylon said prior to testimony on the matter in January. “We believe that is a question for the Legislature as it is public policy and deals with speech issues."

While there is no unified statewide action on the practice, conversion therapy has been banned locally in Milwaukee, Madison, Eau Claire, Cudahy, Shorewood, Racine, Sheboygan, Superior, Glendale, Appleton, West Allis, Kenosha, and Sun Prairie.

RELATED: Utah Lawmakers, Activists Reach Compromise on Conversion Therapy Ban

A growing number of countries and states have implemented bans against conversion therapy. Groups in the U.K. and Ireland announced plans to introduce bills banning the practice. A U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last September upheld Washington State’s ban on conversion therapy for minors. Last August, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order aimed at discouraging conversion therapy in the state. And last March, the New Jersey Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a ruling that barred a religious organization from offering so-called conversion therapy.

(Photo above: State Rep. Adam Neylon of Pewaukee.)

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