Winona Bans Conversion Therapy for Minors, Echos Calls for Statewide Ban

Blaise Keller
Updated: August 19, 2020 05:35 PM
Created: August 19, 2020 04:47 PM

(ABC 6 News) - As of Monday night, another city in Minnesota has joined a shortlist of cities banning conversion therapy - a controversial therapy that claims to be able to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a person. As the list slowly grows, the call for a state-wide ban on the therapy grows as well. 

During their Monday night city council meeting, the six-member council unanimously voted to approve a ban on conversion therapy for minors within the city. 

The push to ban the controversial therapy, which uses psychological, physical, and/or spiritual intervention in an attempt to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, began earlier in 2020 according to council member Eileen Moeller. 

A few community members within Winona, says Moeller, reached out to communities with bans to begin to develop a plan on how to bring such a ban to Winona.

While this was going on, the community members were also pushing for Minnesota to ban the practice statewide. After meeting with the human rights commission, a proposal to ban conversion therapy for minors was brought to city council members. A letter in support of a statewide ban was also sent to the Capitol.

"If your citizens ask you for something and say that it's important to our safety and it makes us feel like we belong here then that's something that any governing body should really take seriously," says Moeller.

Those who oppose a ban, however, say the ban would go against religious freedom. Those concerns were addressed by Mary Joe Clinker and Tyler Treptow-Bowman, the two community members who pushed for the city and state-wide ban.

In 2001, then United States Surgeon General David Satcher said in a report that there was no scientific evidence to support that sexual orientation can be changed. Similarly, the American Psychiatric Association discredited the practice in 2004. In 2020, only 20 states have a ban on the practice for minors. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and over 70 municipalities also have bans.

 "Looking out for the welfare of the young people in our community and making sure that they know that as a city, we affirm their identity, who they are, and how they're born is not abnormal or anything to be ashamed of," says Eileen Moeller, a member of the Winona City Council.

The ordinance, says Moeller, will go into law after their first city council meeting in September unless something changes. It will be then that Winona will join Red Wing, Duluth, St. Paul and Minneapolis as cities that have bans.

As for the rest of the cities in the state, there have been attempts to make a state-wide ban the law.

Senator Scott Dibble, who's open about being a part of the LGBTQ+ community and represents Minneapolis, introduced legislation in 2019 to ban conversion therapy for minors. The bill made it through the House but ultimately died in the Senate.

Similar legislation was introduced in 2020 and had Governor Tim Walz support however, due to COVID-19, the bill was adjourned sine die. Dibble says he plans to introduce another bill in 2021.

Red Wing's ban went into effect July 6th while Saint Paul's ban went into effect July 17th and carries a penalty of $1,000. Moeller says that fines will be determined during the September city council meeting. 

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