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Wisconsin Legislature allows conversion therapy for patients



FILE - Protesters against a conversion therapy ban gather outside city hall on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (PHOTO: Brad Williams)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Legislature took the final step needed Wednesday to stop Gov. Tony Evers’ administration from enacting a ban on the discredited practice known as conversion therapy.

Republicans, who control the state Senate, voted over the objections of Democrats to effectively allow therapists and others to attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The city of La Crosse recently passed a conversion therapy ban. A lawsuit fighting that ban was field by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) on behalf of Joy Buchman, owner of the Kinsman Redeemer Counseling Center in La Crosse.

Republicans used a procedural move to freeze any future attempts through 2024 to ban conversion therapy. The Senate vote came after the Assembly took the same step earlier this month.

Republicans have stopped a ban on conversion therapy since it was first attempted to be enacted by the board that licenses mental health professionals in 2020.

Conversion therapy for minors has been banned in more than a dozen Wisconsin cities. And at least 20 states and the District of Columbia have outlawed conversion therapy for minors, according to the Movement Advancement Project, a pro-LGBTQ rights think tank.

LGBTQ rights advocates have decried the scientifically discredited practice of trying to “convert” LGBTQ people to heterosexuality and traditional gender expectations as harmful, citing research suggesting the practice can increase the risk of suicide and depression.

Senate Democrats argued that the discredited practice should be banned. No Republican lawmaker spoke in favor of allowing conversion therapy before they all voted for it.

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