Gov. Cooper signs executive order banning ‘conversion therapy’ spending by state

FILE - In this July 14, 2019 file photo, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper speaks at Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Fayetteville about his desire to expand Medicaid health coverage to several hundred thousand lower-income North Carolinians in Fayetteville, N.C. Cooper’s leverage is now being tested in a budget stalemate, as he pressures Republican legislators to expand Medicaid. He vetoed the state budget last month in part because it failed to expand Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of people. (Paul Woolverton/The Fayetteville Observer via AP)

RALEIGH — On Friday, Aug. 2, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order that prohibited the state’s Dept. of Health and Human Services from using “state and federal funds that are allocated to DHHS and earmarked for medical and mental health care” on “conversion therapy.” This term is defined in the executive order as, “The practice of attempting to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings towards individuals of the same sex.”

Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the N.C. Values Coalition, a socially conservative organization, told NSJ, “It only goes one direction. If they are questioning things and want to move towards being homosexual or transgender, that’s fine. But if they want to leave that lifestyle, that’s not fine.”

The executive order states that 18 other states, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., have passed laws to restrict the practice. Citing the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, among others, the act seeks to protect LGBTQ youth from what these organizations claim is a harmful practice.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights organization, put out a press release soon after the announcement.

“The executive action, signed by Governor Cooper, restricting the use of public funds to support the dangerous, debunked practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ is an important step forward in North Carolina,” said JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president for policy and political affairs for HRC. “We look forward to working alongside our partners to pass a law — similar to those enacted in 18 other states — that would cover all state-licensed professionals working with minors.”

The executive order by Gov. Cooper does not cover all private interactions between youth and state-licensed therapists, only those interactions paid for by DHHS funding.

“The governor was so concerned on the Born Alive bill about the government asserting itself between a woman and her doctor, and yet, this executive order inserts itself between a child and his therapist,” Fitzgerald said. “It restricts the free speech rights of the therapist, but also the freedom of the child and their parents to get the type of counseling and therapy that they desire.”

Earlier this week, actor Mario Lopez of “Saved by the Bell” was pressured to apologize after comments surfaced of him saying that 3-year olds were too young to make permanent decisions about their gender and sexual identity.

Fitzgerald said Lopez should not have apologized and the case is just another example to her of how difficult it is to have discussions on these issues without being shouted down.

HRC opposed Lopez’s comments, tweeting, “Mario Lopez’s comments are dangerous to the safety and well-being of LGBTQ youth, especially trans children who deserve to be loved and accepted for who they are.”