Wisconsin Senate Republicans reversed a ban on conversion therapy, the controversial practice of attempting to change LGBTQ patients’ sexual orientation or gender identity, on Wednesday.
The decision ends a two-year statewide ban on conversion therapy instituted in 2020 by the Marriage and Family Therapy, Professional Counseling and Social Work Examining Board, an executive-level body which sets standards for licensed mental health professionals in the state.
Instead of protecting conversion therapy permanently through a bill of their own, Republicans opted for a procedural rules change. This successfully blocks the state from enforcing a ban on conversion therapy through 2024, avoiding a veto from Gov. Tony Evers.
On the floor, Senate Democrats firmly opposed the GOP’s move. Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) described conversion therapy as “Clockwork Orange-style torture,” while openly gay senators Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) and Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit) testified to daily struggles experienced by the LGBTQ community.
“Fear, ignorance is winning on the Senate floor today, and I’m embarrassed about that,” Carpenter explained.
While no Republicans spoke in support on the floor, Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) released a written statement Wednesday afternoon applauding the Senate’s effort to reassert power over the administration’s “unaccountable” and “activist” licensing board.
“Issues of sex, sexual preference and gender identity generate a wide divergence of strongly held beliefs,” Stroebel said. “The proposed rule would have gagged professionals from discussing some viewpoints, but not others, with consenting adults and children under the direction of their parents.”
The chamber split down party lines, with all Republicans in support and all Democrats in opposition.