Wisconsin Republicans strike rule barring ‘conversion therapy’ by licensed professionals

by | Jan 12, 2023 | 0 comments

On January 12, 2023 the Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules repealed a rule implemented in December that effectively outlawed conversion therapy in Wisconsin. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, “Following roughly four hours of testimony Thursday, with the majority of those speaking in opposition to the use of conversion therapy, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules voted 6–4 along party lines to strike the rule, which went into effect in December and defines intervention by a marriage and family therapist, counselor and social worker to try to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity as unprofessional conduct.”

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According to the same article, Republicans justified this repeal as saying that it “was not about the controversial and scientifically discredited practice of conversion therapy, but whether the the state Department of Safety and Professional Services or the counselors examining board are allowed to implement the rule under state law.”

Fair Wisconsin, who was tweeting quotes from the event, stated after the vote that, “After listening to hours of personal and professional testimony on the harm caused by conversion therapy to LGBTQ+ youth, Legislative Republicans just voted to repeal the rule that banned the practice in Wisconsin. This is a major setback for our state, but we’re not giving up.” Their Executive Director, Megin McDonell, questioned the motive of the Republican legislators, asking, “How can it be considered arbitrary and capricious when there is clear consensus that this is a harmful practice?”

Casey Pick from The Trevor Project was quoted by Fair Wisconsin as saying, “LGBTQ+ youth are more than 2.5x more likely to attempt suicide. Suicide is multi-faceted, but we do see these correlations. The data is consistent and it does not lie.”

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Other speakers, including a behavioral healthcare professional named Tim, also raised concerns about suicide and suicidal ideation in youth. Dr. Tammy, from Oconomowoc, testified that “all medical professionals have an overarching duty to do no harm. Any professional who seeks to change someone’s sexual orientation is acting unethically and engaging in harm to clients. I can’t be more clear about that.”

The committee also heard from victims and survivors of conversion therapy, including Mathew Shurka, who, as quoted by Fair Wisconsin, gave an example of the harm this “therapy” can do. “At the age of 16, I came out to my father. A licensed professional told him that there is no such thing as being gay. My diagnosis was that I was not allowed to speak to my mother or sisters for three years.” 

Brian Juchems of GSAFE pointed out that several municipalities have banned conversion therapy, adding that, “Conversion therapy does not work, and it causes harm to already vulnerable youth.”

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