At the Capitol on Thursday, a legislative committee voted to allow the controversial practice of “conversion therapy” in Wisconsin. Mark Herstad with the National Association of Social Workers testified against that, to the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules.

“Child Abuse, torture, major mental health and suicidal risk, unprofessional conduct, fake therapy. These are words you could use to describe conversion or reparative therapy,” Herstad said.

Republicans on the panel argued the Marriage and Family Therapy, Professional Counseling, and Social Work Examining Board enacted a rule to ban the practice without legislative approval.

“This can go in, and other policies in the future, it will set a precedent and I don’t know where it’ll stop,” said Senator Steve Nass (R-Whitewater).

Senator Kelda Roys (D-Madison) noted there are no therapists in the legislature, and asked Herstad about that.

“So if there are none, doesn’t that lend credence to the idea that . . . the legislature is not competent to decide what is professional conduct in a particular regulated industry?”

Julaine Appling with Wisconsin Family Action agreed with Republicans on the committee. “When a licensing board can . . . add what is included in discrimination without you all as the legislative body doing that I think that’s a clear overreach,” Appling said.

Thursday’s 6-4 party line vote in the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules will allow Wisconsin therapists to try to change a person’s sexual orientation. Republicans did not directly address the merits of the practice.

Following the vote, the Wisconsin Legislative LGBTQ+ Caucus released a statement: “We are deeply disappointed in today’s vote, and we are concerned about the harm that will be allowed due to Republican obstructionism. But it is not too late. Our colleagues made a mistake today, but they can right this wrong by removing their objections and allowing the proposed rules to go into effect.”

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