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Minneapolis bans conversion therapy; LGBTQ+ advocates to push more cities, aim for state law

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Advocates with OutFront Minnesota pose for a photo in the Minneapolis City Hall after the City Council unanimously voted on Friday, Nov. 22 to ban LGBTQ+ conversion therapy on children under 18 in city limits. Sarah Mearhoff / Forum News Service
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MINNEAPOLIS — Months after the Minnesota Legislature failed to pass a bill banning so-called conversion therapy for young LGBTQ+ Minnesotans, the Minneapolis City Council has passed its own ban, hoping to send a message to state legislators.

By a unanimous vote at the City Council's Friday, Nov. 22 meeting , Minneapolis has become the first city in Minnesota to ban the controversial practice on children under 18 within city limits.

According to the American Medical Association, conversion therapy encompasses "any form of interventions which attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation, sexual behaviors or gender identity."

The practice of conversion therapy has been discredited by major medical groups , including the AMA, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association and more. The AMA says the practice can cause "significant psychological distress," and symptoms including depression, anxiety, self-blame, lowered self-esteem, sexual dysfunction and more.

Minneapolis Ward 8 City Council member Andrea Jenkins , calling the practice "conversion abuse," said the "community effort to protect our most vulnerable residents" has been "very heartwarming."

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According to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in August 2016, between September 2014 and December 2015, nearly 43% of LGB students in grades 9-12 surveyed had "seriously considered" attempting suicide, compared to about 15% of their heterosexual peers.

Friday's vote comes months after Minnesota state Rep. Hunter Cantrell, DFL-Savage, introduced legislation to ban the practice statewide on Minnesota youth under 18 during the 2019 legislative session. The bill ultimately failed in the Republican-controlled state Senate.

Minneapolis's Ward 4 council member Phillipe Cunningham, who championed the city's legislation, said before Friday's vote via written statement (he was absent due to family emergency) that conversion therapy is "tantamount to torture," and that "legislators made this effort about partisan politics, rather than protecting our kids" earlier this year.

"I believe that we should continue to push for this change at a state level," he said, "but I also believe that where there is opportunity for us to save lives, we must."

With Minneapolis having passed the first citywide ban in the state, LGBTQ+ advocacy group OutFront Minnesota has set its sights on other municipalities to pass similar legislation in order to send a message to state legislators come 2020. Justin Lewandowski, a policy and community organizer with OutFront, said the advocacy organization is currently working with St. Paul, Duluth, Golden Valley and Saint Louis Park, aiming to pass a bill in St. Paul in January. They plan to push for a statewide ban again in 2020.

Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia have banned conversion therapy.

If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless or suicidal, LGBTQ+ suicide prevention group The Trevor Project has counselors available by calling 1-866-488-7386 or texting START to 678678.

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An audience applauds a Minneapolis City Council committee's unanimous vote to move forward a bill banning LGBTQ+ conversion therapy for children under 18 in city limits on Monday, Nov. 18. Sarah Mearhoff / Forum News Service

Mearhoff is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. You can reach her at smearhoff@forumcomm.com or 651-290-0707.
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