Gov. Evers kicks off Pride Month with executive order banning conversion therapy

By: - June 1, 2021 1:39 pm
Close-Up of rainbow flag with crowd In background during LGBT Pride Parade. Getty Images.

Close-Up of rainbow flag with crowd In background during LGBT Pride Parade. Getty Images.

Gov. Tony Evers hosted the third annual raising of the Rainbow Pride flag at the Wisconsin State Capitol on Tuesday, in a kick-off celebration of LGBTQ pride month. 

In 2019 the Rainbow Pride flag was flown over the Wisconsin State Capitol for the first time. 

Evers signed an executive order specifying that the Rainbow Pride flag will be raised over the State Capitol from noon on June 1 until sunset on June 30 and authorized other state buildings to fly the pride flag in June. 

Evers also signed an executive order directing cabinet agencies to use gender-neutral language wherever practicable, “including but not limited to: using gender-neutral terms and pronouns, drafting to eliminate the need for pronouns, omitting superfluous gendered words, and making any reference to gendered family relations, to the extent allowable by state and federal law.”

A third executive order bans the use of state and federal funds by the Department of Health Services (DHS), Department of Children and Families (DCF) and Department of Corrections (DOC) for conversion therapy for individuals under 18 years of age. The order defines conversion therapy as “any practice or treatment that is intended to promote heterosexuality by attempting to alter same-sex attractions or an individual’s gender expression.”

The order notes that expert medical associations and professional organizations oppose the practice of conversion therapy, and that it has been shown to cause emotional and physical harm, leading to higher rates of depression and suicide for LGBTQ youth.

“Conversion therapy is a dangerous, fraudulent practice that should never be subsidized with taxpayer dollars. Thank you to Governor Evers for taking this action at the start of Pride Month to protect LGBTQ youth,” said Sam Brinton, vice president of Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project 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.”

In March, the Wisconsin State Senate and Assembly passed bills to block a rule put in place by the state Department of Safety and Professional Standards that would have prohibited conversion therapy.

In response to this move, which as a rule change did not require approval by the governor, Rep. Lee Snodgrass (D-Appleton) and Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) authored a Democratic bill to ban conversion therapy for minors. 

In the Senate it was introduced in April and referred to the Committee on Human Services, Children and Family. In the Assembly it  was introduced in early May and referred to the Assembly Committee on Mental Health. The bill would specifically prohibit mental health professionals from engaging in conversion therapy with a minor.

Conversion therapy has been banned by 20 states. In Wisconsin, local governments in Milwaukee, Madison, Eau Claire, Cudahy, Shorewood, Racine, Glendale, Sheboygan, Superior, West Allis, Kenosha and Appleton have prohibited the practice of conversion therapy. 

“This legislation should not be controversial,” said Snodgrass. “We must take a stand against this abusive practice by protecting Wisconsin’s children.


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Melanie Conklin
Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin was the Wisconsin Examiner's founding Deputy Editor, serving from its launch July 1, 2019, until Feb. 1, 2022. She is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications before returning to journalism at the Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.