North Carolina Becomes First Southern State to Ban State Funding for Conversion Therapy

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Feb. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

North Carolina has became the first Southern state to ban public funding of conversion therapy for minors, the practice often used by religious groups to “cure” individuals of their same-sex sex orientations and transgender identities.

In his executive order on Friday (Aug. 2), Gov. Roy Cooper instructed the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to make sure state licensed health care providers and organizations that use such techniques are not paid by government agencies.

Eighteen states plus the District of Columbia have laws that ban conversion therapy of minors by licensed health care providers, but Southern states have been unable to muster the votes to pass legislation to ban the practice, even as polls show growing support for such legislation.

“The dynamic we’re contending with in many parts of the South is that even when we see very strong public support for an issue and legislators ready to introduce a bill and push for it, the Republican majority leadership in state legislatures is putting up barriers to bills like this progressing,” said the Rev. Jasmine Beach Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, which works to strike down anti-LGBTQ laws and pass pro-LGBTQ policies across the South.

North Carolina has a bill pending in its legislature that would ban conversion therapy, but with passage stalled by a Republican majority, Cooper, a Democrat, chose to use an executive order.

North Carolina joins Utah as the only other state to curb the practice through executive order. In June, after the Utah legislature failed to agree on a bill, Gov. Gary R. Herbert issued a letter directing the state psychologist licensing board to “ethically regulate psychological interventions for minor children regarding their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Executive orders can’t stop the private practice of conversion therapy. Some religious groups across the state continue to use what’s sometimes known as “ex-gay therapy,” to treat youth who have same-sex attraction.

One group called New Beginning Support, in the Asheville-Hendersonville area of North Carolina, says on its website that it does not have licensed professional counselors but rather Christian life coaches and mentors “who understand the complexities of sexuality and gender identity issues.”

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Source: Religion News Service