Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Monday issued a directive banning the use of state and federal funds for conversion therapy on minors.
While it isn’t clear if any such funds have been used for the discredited and harmful practice of trying to turn LGBTQ+ people straight or cisgender, civil rights groups applauded the Democratic governor’s move. She also called on the legislature, which has a Republican majority, to pass a law banning the use of the practice on minors, The Detroit News reports.
“The actions we take today will serve as a starting point in protecting our LGBTQ+ youth from the damaging practice of conversion therapy and in ensuring that Michigan is a reflection of true inclusion,” Whitmer said in a statement.
Funding covered by her directive includes Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, juvenile justice programs, and child welfare services, the News reports. The directive also provides for training mental health professionals about the harm done by conversion therapy and opens the door for licensing boards to discipline professionals who violate ethical standards.
Every major health group in the U.S. has condemned conversion therapy, which studies have indicated is associated with a heightened risk of depression and suicide. Twenty states and numerous municipalities have barred licensed counselors from subjecting minors to conversion therapy. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers recently issued a funding ban similar to Whitmer’s, and the North Dakota board that licenses social workers last week adopted a rule barring them from engaging in such therapy for clients of any age.
Several LGBTQ+ rights groups issued statements praising Whitmer’s action and urging the legislature to take further steps. “No child in Michigan should be subjected to the abusive practice of so-called conversion therapy, which sends the harmful message that there is something wrong with who you are, when in fact, we are all born perfect,” said Erin Knott, executive director of Equality Michigan, who led the effort to secure the governor’s leadership on this issue. “Luckily, LGBTQ+ kids in Michigan have the support of Governor Whitmer, who is doing everything in her power to protect them from this dangerous and discredited pseudoscience. Now it’s up to the Michigan legislature to immediately pass legislation prohibiting mental health professionals from engaging in conversion therapy with LGBTQ+ kids.”
“Governor Whitmer is taking a critical step to protect LGBTQ minors across the state of Michigan. LGBTQ kids and their families are targeted by so-called therapists causing lifelong harm,” said Mathew Shurka, a conversion therapy survivor and chief strategist for Born Perfect, a national survivor-led campaign to ban the practice. “This executive order demonstrates that our political offices have the power to protect our youth and it is their responsibility to do so. Thank you, Governor Whitmer.”
“We applaud Governor Whitmer for her leadership in prioritizing the health and safety of Michiganders,” said Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which sponsors Born Perfect. “More than 20 states have taken action to protect minors from the harm caused by sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts. We see a growing number of governors, most recently in Wisconsin, who are enacting similar measures. Conversion therapy has been condemned by every leading medical and mental health professional organization in the country.”
“LGBTQ youth are beautiful the way that they are and deserve to be loved and respected — not subjected to the dangerous and abusive practice of conversion therapy. Thank you to Governor Whitmer for taking action to protect LGBTQ youth,” said Sam Brinton, vice president of advocacy and government affairs for the Trevor Project. “While there is still much work to do in the Great Lake State, this is an amazing step forward that will help save young LGBTQ lives in Michigan.”