Monday, November 25, 2013

Politics & Policy

University Student wants Minnesota lawmakers to ban "ex-gay" therapy
Alec Fischer * Photo via City of Edina
By Brody Levesque | EDINA -- An openly gay 20 year old University of Minnesota political science major is spearheading a petition effort to get Minnesota's Governor Mark Dayton, and state lawmakers to ban "ex-gay" conversion therapy in the upcoming 2014 legislative session. Thus far over 35,000 people have signed.
Alec Fischer experienced being bullied from the time he was in sixth grade until almost halfway through high school and is an activist for awareness for LGBTQ issues and people including those who may be exposed to reparative or "ex-gay" therapy which is currently legal in Minnesota.
According to Fischer and his colleague on the effort to ban conversion therapy, fellow University of Minnesota student and close friend Gabe Aderhold, Minnesota's lawmakers are already looking into addressing the problem of allowing conversion therapy as a "treatment option" for minors. Fischer told LGBTQ Nation Monday that a rough draft of the legistion is being prepared for introduction when the new legisaltive session starts next February.
"In order to successfully introduce legislation banning conversion therapy for minors in MN, public support and outreach towards MN Senators and Representatives is essential.  
We can show our lawmakers with this petition that we don't want to allow psychiatrists within our state to fix something that isn't broken," Fischer said.
Fischer added that he and Aderhold are also approaching national LGBTQ groups such as HRC, GLAAD, and PFLAG to help lobby lawmakers. He told LGBTQ Nation that they have asked local LGBTQ groups like Justin's Gift and OutFront Minnesota to help out efforts to pass a bill.
Minnesota received national attention on the issue after LGBTQ activists exposed that Dr. Marcus Bachmann's, (Husband of outgoing Minnesota GOP Congresswoman Michele Bachmann) Bachmann & Associates Lake Elmo, MN counseling clinic was offering the discredited "ex-gay" conversion therapy practice which the nation's leading medical and mental health authorities, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Association, have uniformly deemed ineffective and harmful.
Fischer, a 2012 graduate of Edina High School in suburban Minneapolis, is an aspiring filmmaker as well as an activist who produced the anti-bullying documentary “Minnesota Nice?” for his senior year end-term project. 
“Minnesota Nice?,” is a 45-minute film in which Minnesotan teens from multiple schools share their hopes, experiences and observations about bullying, and has been featured at education conferences across the country and shown in schools.
Fischer recalled,
"Growing up as a gay male in Minnesota I have experienced many forms of discrimination due to my sexual orientation.  I was bullied horrifically in middle school for being perceived as gay, and like many people who experience bullying, the problem got so bad that I attempted suicide." 
"Thankfully, when I got to high school, I was fortunate enough to come out to peers and family members who loved and accepted me for who I was. But we know this is not the case for many other youth who identify as LGBT in our state and across the country.  That's why I want my state to take a stand for LGBT youth, and ban "ex-gay" conversion therapy."
Edina High School Principal Bruce Locklear- speaking about Fischer's film project- said “He really took the bullying issue – researched it, understood it, experienced it – and so he was able to speak with a degree of authority around the topic."
In addition to being a university sophomore Fischer currently works as a video production assistant for LGBTQ equality rights group, Outfront Minnesota and the MN Safe Schools Coalition creating videos for Outfront MN, and creating content for the Safe Schools Coalition's website.
This past year, both California and New Jersey passed laws that banned "ex-gay" conversion therapy of which both laws withstood separate federal court challenges and were upheld as constitutional. 
A political observer in St. Paul told LGBTQ Nation Monday that a possible Minnesota law would likely be patterned after those two successful laws.
Read about the petition here.