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Impact of green light for California’s conversion-therapy ban will likely be felt in Minnesota

Christian counseling clinics owned by Marcus Bachmann, left, the husband of U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, were the subject of media accounts on its reported use there.

Buried by Monday’s other headlines, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a California ban on so-called conversion therapy for gay and lesbian minors. Without comment, the jurists declined to hear the appeal of a federal appeals court decision that called the “pray away the gay” counseling extreme and dangerous.

The impact doubtless will be felt in Minnesota, where a similar measure failed in the 2014 Legislature. The bill, authored by Minneapolis DFL Reps. Karen Clark and Susan Allen, would have prohibited health-care professionals from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of anyone under 18.

Such counseling is typically practiced by religious fundamentalists. Christian counseling clinics owned by Marcus Bachmann, the husband of U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, were the subject of media accounts on its reported use there. During the congresswoman’s presidential bid, the clinics came under fire for accepting state and federal payments.

Lesser-known is the role reparative therapy played in the controversy over the Anoka-Hennepin School District’s “neutrality” policy, which barred teachers and other district employees from talking supportively to LGBT youth. Under threat of both a major lawsuit and a federal investigation, two years ago the school board there agreed to change the policy.

Religious conservatives have long pressed the district to distribute information to students about conversion therapy. If Anoka-Hennepin had LGBT materials in libraries and counselors’ offices, they argued, the district should be making students aware of their belief that sexual orientation is a choice.

One of a dozen district students to commit suicide during a two-year period, Justin Aaberg came from a family and network of friends who supported his homosexuality. Among the events in the run-up to his suicide was the “Day of Truth,” when students showed up to school wearing T-shirts condemning gay and lesbian youth.

The event was sponsored by Exodus International, which preached about converting gay youth at area churches. In addition to being branded a sinner, Aaberg received hate messages via Facebook from students he didn’t know.

On Monday the High Court let stand Pickup v. Brown, a unanimous decision by the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that California’s ban on conversion therapy is constitutional. The court’s refusal to hear the case means the ban may now be implemented. 

The proposed Minnesota ban is just one of a number of measures raised during recent legislative sessions that died amid arguments that it violated the right to religious freedom. An anti-bullying measure did pass, after failing for numerous consecutive years.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/02/2014 - 12:55 pm.


    Since there is virtually no support in the professional literature for the effectiveness of so called ‘conversion therapy’, the Court obviously felt that there was no issue — the law as it stood was consistent with medical science.
    Banning a dangerous and ineffective therapy does not break any new legal ground requiring the Court’s attention.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 07/02/2014 - 02:23 pm.

    Unsupported, indeed

    Ditto on Paul Brandon’s comment. Someone’s religious freedom does not include either proselytizing others to believe the same thing, or publicly condemning those who don’t share the same beliefs.

    There is little correlation between sincerity of belief and facts on the ground.

  3. Submitted by Clayton Haapala on 07/02/2014 - 10:53 pm.

    Got science?

    Unfortunately, science took a back seat to “strong beliefs” in the Hobby Lobby case. The SCOTUS refusing to hear a case means that Alito didn’t get a chance to weigh-in, thankfully.

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