Whitmer bans state, federal funding for conversion therapy on minors

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer directed a Michigan department Monday to stop the use of any state or federal funds for conversion therapy on minors, though it was unclear if any money was currently being used to do so. 

The executive directive also directs departments to "explore what further actions can be taken to protect minors" from conversion or "reparative therapy," a practice that attempts to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity. 

The Democratic governor called on the GOP-led Legislature to codify a conversion therapy ban in state law. 

"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," Whitmer said in a statement. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer holds up a signed executive directive prohibiting the use of state funds for the practice of conversion therapy on minors during an event at the Ruth Ellis Center in Highland Park, June 14, 2021.

A 2021 survey, Whitmer said in her directive, found LGBT youth subject 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 funding banned from going toward conversion therapy includes dollars used through Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, juvenile justice programs, or child welfare services, Whitmer wrote in her directive.

It's not clear what sort of state or federal funding, if any, was being used for conversion therapy. An email seeking comment from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services was not immediately returned.

Equality Michigan celebrated the directive Monday and called on the Legislature to codify protections in statute. 

“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 Erin Knott, Equality Michigan executive director. 

Monday's directive also rescinded Whitmer's March 30, 2020, directive at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that put a freeze on discretionary spending in state government. The directive, which has been in place for more than a year, required departments to identify administrative efficiencies and mandated the Department of Technology, Management and Budget to review department and agency expenditures to reduce state spending.