EDINA, Minn. — An openly gay University of Minnesota political science major is spearheading a petition asking Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and state lawmakers to pass a law in the upcoming 2014 legislative session that would ban “ex-gay” therapy for minors.
Alec Fischer, 20, said he experienced being bullied from the time he was in sixth grade until almost halfway through high school, and is an activist for awareness for LGBT issues, including kids who may be exposed the controversial “gay-to-straight” conversion therapy, often referred to as “reparative” therapy.
Fischer has launched a petition at Change.org asking lawmakers to ban the practice; as of Monday, it had more than 35,000 signatures.
Fisher and close friend Gabe Aderhold, also a University of Minnesota student, are collaborating on the effort, and said Minnesota’s lawmakers are already looking into addressing the subject, and that a rough draft of the legislation is being prepared for introduction when lawmakers begin their session in February.
“In order to successfully introduce legislation banning conversion therapy for minors in Minnesota, public support and outreach towards MN Senators and Representatives is essential,” Fischer told LGBTQ Nation.
“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,” he said.
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.
“Growing up as a gay male in Minnesota I have experienced many forms of discrimination due to my sexual orientation,” recalled Fischer. “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,” he said.
“That’s why I want my state to take a stand for LGBT youth, and ban ‘ex-gay’ conversion therapy,” he added.
Fischer, who also works as a video production assistant for LGBT advocacy group Outfront Minnesota and the Minnesota Safe Schools Coalition, creating content for the organizations and their websites, said he is contacting local and national advocacy groups, including the HRC and GLAAD for help in lobbying lawmakers to support the legislation.
Minnesota received national attention on the issue after gay rights activists exposed Dr. Marcus Bachmann’s counseling clinic — Bachmann and Associates in Lake Elmo, Minn. — for offering reparative therapy as part of its services. Marcus Bachmann is the husband of outgoing U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn).
Michele Bachman has previously referred to the gay and lesbian “lifestyle” as “personal bondage, personal despair and personal enslavement.”
The practice of reparative therapy has been widely denounced by 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.
So far, only California and New Jersey have passed laws prohibiting “ex-gay” conversion therapy for minors, and both laws have been upheld in separate federal court challenges.
One political observer in St. Paul told LGBTQ Nation Monday that a possible Minnesota law would likely be patterned after those two successful measures.
Fischer’s petition is here.