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To mark LGBTQ Pride Month, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) has issued three different executive orders benefitting the LGBTQ community, including one that prohibits state or federal funds from being used to pay for or reimburse therapists for conversion therapy.
The order, issued earlier this month, requires the Department of Health Services, Department of Corrections, and the Department of Children and Families to take steps to prohibit the use of taxpayer money as reimbursement for conversion therapy or other efforts to forcibly change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Evers said the measure was preventative, in order to ensure that if funds were ever used in the past to pay for conversion therapy services, they will not be in the future.
Wisconsin now becomes the twentieth state to take action to protect LGBTQ-identifying minors from being subjected to conversion therapy against their will, either through legislative or executive action, by making it harder for practitioners to profit from the therapy.
Evers’ action reverses a legislative maneuver by Republicans earlier this year to block a rule from taking effect that would have labeled conversion therapy a form of “unprofessional conduct” for therapists and social workers.
Numerous medical associations and professional organizations oppose conversion therapy, which has been shown in several different studies to have serious ramifications for those subjected to it.
A recent study by the Family Acceptance Project found that attempts to “change” a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity were linked with higher rates of depression and suicide attempts among those subjected to it, as well as decreased self-esteem, lower educational attainment, and lower incomes in adulthood.
According to The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 13% of LGBTQ youth reported being subjected to conversion therapy, with 83% reporting they underwent the therapy as minors. Those subjected to the therapy reported more than twice the rate of suicide attempts compared to those who did not undergo it.
Similarly, a peer-reviewed study by The Trevor Project published in the American Journal of Public Health found nearly identical findings, with those subjected to conversion therapy being more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide and more than 2.5 times as likely to report multiple suicide attempts in the past year.
“Conversion therapy is a dangerous, fraudulent practice that should never be subsidized with taxpayer dollars,” Sam Brinton, the vice president of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, said in a statement. “This is a great step forward and now we need the state legislature to pass legislation prohibiting mental health providers from subjecting any LGBTQ young person in Wisconsin to this discredited and abusive practice.”
Mathew Shurka, a conversion therapy survivor and the co-founder of #BornPerfect, the national campaign to end conversion therapy that is sponsored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, applauded Evers’ actions.
“This order ensures that taxpayer dollars cannot be used to pressure LGBTQ youth who are in foster care or juvenile detention in Wisconsin to change who they are,” Shurka said in a statement. “Many of these youth have already faced family rejection for being LGBTQ; they deserve safety and respect. No young person in state care should be sent to a therapist who subjects them further trauma and abuse.”
The ban on funding for conversion therapy is one of several actions taken by Evers in honor of LGBTQ Pride Month. The governor ordered the LGBTQ Pride flag to fly over the State Capitol building for the month of June, along with the U.S. flag, the Wisconsin state flag, and the POW-MIA flag, which are flown above the Capitol building daily, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Evers also signed a third executive order, which directs cabinet agencies to use gender-neutral language “whenever practicable in external documents, including but not limited to: using gender-neutral terms and pronouns, drafting to eliminate the need for pronouns, omitting superfluous gendered words, and making references to gendered family relations.”
Evers also vowed to veto legislation being considered by the Republican-controlled legislature that would ban transgender athletes from competing in sports based on their gender identity.
“I very seldom weigh in on bills before they reach my desk, but I can tell you one thing for sure: As governor I will veto any bill that’s going to negatively impact our kids,” Evers said. “Period.”
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