Whitmer signs executive directive to prohibit state and federal funding of conversion therapy

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during a press conference at Ruth Ellis Center in Highland Park on June 14, 2021. (Ken Coleman|Michigan Advance)

By Allison Donahue, Michigan Advance

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive directive Monday requiring the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to take action to prohibit the use of state and federal dollars for the practice of conversion therapy on minors. 

Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, refers to any intervention that attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. 

“Since day one, I have made it clear that hate has no home in Michigan,” Whitmer said during a press conference at Highland Park’s Ruth Ellis Center. “My administration is committed to addressing the systemic barriers faced by young LGBTQ+ Michiganders so that our state is a place where they are able to reach their full potential. The actions we take today will serve as a starting point in protecting our LGBTQ+ youth from the damaging practice of conversion therapy and in ensuring that Michigan is a reflection of true inclusion.” 

Executive Directive 2021-3 also requires state departments and agencies to consider further actions to protect minors from conversion therapy.  

“No child should be subjected to the abusive practice of so-called conversion therapy, which sends the harmful message that there is something wrong with who you are,” said Equality Michigan Executive Director Erin Knott. “Equality Michigan calls upon the legislature to immediately pass legislation prohibiting mental health providers from subjecting anymore LGBTQ+ kids in Michigan to this discredited practice.” 

Whitmer also called on the Legislature to codify a ban on conversion therapy. 

Neither a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) nor House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Clare) responded to a request for comment on the executive directive or whether they would support legislation banning conversion therapy in Michigan. 

Maureen Connolly, a Detroit-based pediatrician who specializes in adolescent medicine and caring for the LGBTQ+ community, said in a statement that “conversion therapy is the exact opposite of what young people need and has been shown to have long-lasting negative effects including depression, self-harm, and decreased self-esteem.”

Whitmer also garnered support from The Trevor Project, the largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people, which has supported over 6,200 crisis contacts in Michigan over the last year.

“LGBTQ youth are beautiful the way that they are and deserve to be loved and respected — not subjected to the dangerous and abusive practice of conversion therapy. Thank you to Governor Whitmer for taking action to protect LGBTQ youth,” said Sam Brinton, vice president of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project. “While there is still much work to do in the Great Lake State, this is an amazing step forward that will help save young LGBTQ lives in Michigan.”

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