MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order Thursday restricting “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ youth in the state, a widely discredited practice aiming to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The directive prohibits the Minnesota Department of Human Services from paying for the “Byzantine, torturous practice” through Minnesota health care programs, like Medicaid, Walz said. It requires health care companies to attest they don’t cover the debunked treatment and prevents state reimbursement.

READ MORE: St. Paul City Council Bans Conversion Therapy

It also directs the Minnesota Department of Health to compile a report on the public health impacts of conversion therapy.

“There is no place for hate in this state. There’s no room for division,” Walz said.  “Our LGBTQ+ community is part, and a huge part, of what it means to be one Minnesota.”

Walz’s actions Thursday do not outright ban the practice, as some states have done, but it implements restrictions, like barring public funds from being used for it. He said the move “empowers existing state law” governing state agencies and their regulatory authority.

The power to outlaw conversion therapy rests with state legislature.

In 2019, the Democratic-controlled House passed a proposal to ban the controversial practice. But the proposal failed to pass in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Executive orders can be easily reversed under a new administration, so advocates, the governor and DFL lawmakers are still pressing for more permanent action.

“This executive order will do much to putting a stop to it here. However, executive orders are, by their nature, temporary. The legislature is not off the hook,” Sen. Scott Dibble said.

A spokeswoman for the Senate Republicans did not have a comment on Thursday.

LGBTQ+ advocates cheered Walz’s move, by the stroke of his pen, to restrict the practice. Walz called his executive order a first step to protecting young people in the community.

Groups representing licensed medical doctors and health care professionals dismiss conversion therapy as baseless and harmful.

“I have seen escalating suicide rates. I have seen increasing self-harm practices, and I have seen lasting psychological harm to both kids and their families,” Children’s Minnesota pediatrician Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd said.

More 20 other states have banned or curtailed the practice, as have many cities, including Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth. Minnesota joins four other states whose governors took executive action to restrict it.

The Minnesota Family Council, a Christian group, called the order a “direct attack” on individual choice in health care.

Caroline Cummings