Gov. Whitmer Is Leading By Example': Her Executive Order Could End Conversion Therapy on Minors in Michigan

Jason A. Michael

As the fate of a couple of bills in the Michigan Legislature that would ban the practice of conversion therapy continues to look uncertain, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took bold action Monday. Whitmer effectively demanded the Republican-controlled Legislature pass legislation prohibiting the controversial and widely debunked practice known as "conversion therapy" from being practiced on minors in the state. Until they do, Whitmer went one step further and issued an executive order prohibiting the use of state funds for the practice of conversion therapy on minors.

"The assumptions underlying the practice of conversion therapy are not supported by medicine or science," Whitmer's executive order said in part. "Being LGBTQ is not a disorder, disease, or deficiency. Treating it as such through conversion therapy is not only ineffectual, but may cause significant long-term harm, including anxiety, depression, internalized homophobia, lowered self-esteem, and self-blame, as well as alienation, loneliness, social isolation, loss of social supports, and suicidal behaviors."

The executive order points go a National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health that was conducted by The Trevor Project.

"A 2021 survey found that LGBTQ youth who were subjected to conversion therapy reported more than twice the rate of suicide attempts in the past year compared to those who were not subjected to conversion therapy," the order continued.

Whitmer presented the executive order with Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist at the Ruth Ellis Center in Highland Park Monday.

"Governor Whitmer's directive affirms our commitment to support the health, safety, and welfare of Michigan's LGBTQ youth," said Gilchrist. "Every step we take towards equality will impact Michiganders for generations to come, and we are committed to walking on the right side of history."

Reaction was swift.

"Governor Whitmer is leading by example," said Equality Michigan Executive Director Erin Knott in a statement following the governor's visit. "It is an example that the Michigan legislature should follow by taking immediate, meaningful action. They need to pass legislation prohibiting mental healthcare providers from subjecting any LGBTQ young person in Michigan to this discredited and abusive practice. Equality Michigan is calling for immediate hearings on SB 367 and HB 4651, as well as up or down floor votes. The time is now to ban conversion therapy against ALL minors in Michigan."

Ruth Ellis Center Executive Director Jerry Peterson offered comment as well.

"The Ruth Ellis Center staff and board applaud and celebrate the courage and wisdom of Gov. Whitmer in moving Michigan forward in national leadership to ban harmful and discredited practices aimed at changing an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity," Peterson said. "All efforts to shame a child and try to force them to deny their full and true selves are harmful and traumatizing. LGBTQ children and youth deserve the protection of the State of Michigan from such harms."