Hundreds rally at state Capitol to end gay conversion therapy

Hundreds of people gathered Thursday at the Minnesota state Capitol to call on lawmakers to ban the controversial practice of gay conversion therapy, which some organizations still administer under the guise of health care or religious guidance. 

Similar bills have failed to take off in the Legislature before, though many gathered said Thursday's rally was an attempt to pressure lawmakers who have refused to hold a hearing on a series of similar bills in the past.

"It’s more a form of torture,"  said Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis. "It’s ineffective, it’s extremely harmful and it’s destructive in people’s lives."

Conversion therapy often involves the use of counseling, hypnosis or even electric shocks in an attempt to change one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and has been widely denounced by the medical community. 

It's a practice familiar to Jeffry Ford, who was married with two children when he decided to undergo the therapy, enduring years of mental and physical suffering before coming to terms with his homosexuality.

"When someone in a position of power--like a therapist--[says those things], people believe that stuff," he said at the rally Thursday. "And so I need to come out and say, it’s not true. It’s dangerous and you can’t allow it. And this legislation needs to go through."

The bill in question would ban the practice on vulnerable adults and on anyone under the age of 18, a measure proponents say would reduce depression, drug abuse and suicide within the LGBTQ community. 

Only a handful of other states have enacted similar legislation.

"We’re at the beginning of a world where you can be gay and Christian, and can raise kids," Ford said. "[You can] have a family and not have to go through shock therapy and other kinds of conversion therapies."