CONVERSION THERAPY BAN

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NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS FILES AMICUS BRIEF TO THE WISCONSIN SUPREME COURT TO REINSTATE THE PROFESSION’S BAN ON CONVERSION THERAPY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: APRIL 1, 2024

CONTACT: NASW WISCONSIN EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR MARC HERSTAND AT 608-257-6334 OR MHERSTAND.NASWWI@SOCIALWORKERS.ORG

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS FILES AMICUS BRIEF TO THE WISCONSIN SUPREME COURT TO REINSTATE THE PROFESSION’S BAN ON CONVERSION THERAPY

The National Association of Social Workers, through its Wisconsin Chapter, has filed an Amicus Brief to the Wisconsin Supreme Court urging them to reinstate the profession’s ban in its State Conduct Code on Conversion Therapy.

In October 2023, Governor Tony Evers sued the Wisconsin Legislature, alleging that in four instances they had violated the state constitution’s provision of separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. One of the instances referred to the action on January 11, 2023, by the Wisconsin Legislative Joint Committee on the Review of Administrative Rules, which voted on a partisan basis to suspend the ban on Conversion Therapy that was part of MPSW 20, the Conduct Code for the professions of social work, marriage and family therapy and professional counseling.

In February 2024, the Wisconsin Supreme Court took up two of the four issues, but left the others in abeyance, including the suspension of the ban on Conversion Therapy. This Amicus Brief seeks to prompt the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take up, as soon as possible, the portion of the lawsuit related to the suspension of the ban on Conversion Therapy.

Conversion therapy is a discredited and extremely harmful practice that attempts to cause an individual identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or gender-nonconforming (“LGBT”) to abandon that identity and adopt and/or exhibit a heterosexual sexual orientation and gender identity consistent with the one assigned to them at birth.

Conversion therapy has been described by experts as torture[1] and is associated with increased depression, psychological distress, substance use, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts as well as lower educational attainment and lower weekly incomes[2].

Conversion therapy has been condemned by every major medical and mental health association including; the National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, American College of Physicians, American Counseling Association, American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychoanalytic Association, American Psychological Association, American School Counselor Association, Pan American Health Organization, Regional Office of the World Health Organization and the World Psychiatric Association[3].

NASW-WI has been working for over six years to ban Conversion Therapy in the Conduct Code for social workers, marriage and family therapists and professional counselors. Between December 1, 2022, and January 11, 2023, the Conduct Code ban was in effect until it was suspended as mentioned above on a partisan vote in the Wisconsin Legislative Joint Committee on the Review of Administrative Rules.



[1] Mason D. Bracken, Torture is not protected speech: Free speech analysis of bans on gay conversion therapy, 63 Washington Univ. in St. Louis J. L. and Pol’y 325 (2020).

[2] Jake Camp, Silia Vitoratou, & Katharine A. Rimes, LGBQ+ self-acceptance and its relationship with minority stressors and mental health: A systematic literature review, 49 Archives of Sexual Behavior 2353 (2020), https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01755-2; Anna Forsythe et al, Humanistic and economic burden of conversion therapy among LGBTQ youths in the United States, 176 JAMA Pediatrics 493 (2022), https://doi.org.10.1001/jamapediatrics.2022.0042; Amy Przeworski,Emily Peterson, & Alexanra Piedra, A systematic review of the efficacy, harmful effects, and ethical issues related to sexual orientation change efforts, 28 Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice 81 (2021), https://doi.org/10.1111/cpsp.12377; Caitlin Ryan, Russel B. Toomey, Rafael M. Diaz, & Stephen T. Russell, Parent-initiated sexual orientation change efforts with LGBT adolescents: Implications for young adult mental health and adjustment. 67 Journal of Homosexuality 159 (2020), https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2018.1538407

[3] Human Rights Campaign (2017) “the Lies and Dangers of Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity”, https://www.hrc.org/resources/the-lies-and-dangers-of-reparative-therapy

Update, 4/2/2024: The Wisconsin Supreme Court has rejected our motion to file an amicus brief. They gave no reason. We can only hope that the justices will still be influenced by what we submitted, and issue a strong opinion in the DNR case that can be used in a challenge to the veto of the rule banning conversion therapy. 

If you have any questions regarding our work on banning conversion therapy, please email Executive Director, Marc Herstand at mherstand.naswwi@socialworkers.org