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N. Carolina is first in South to ban state funding for conversion therapy

Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order calling the contentious practice "clinically and ethically inappropriate."

North Carolina on Friday became the first Southern state to ban the use of state funds for “conversion therapy” for minors.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, signed the executive order, which noted that North Carolina is home to approximately 320,000 adults who identify as LGBTQ. The order also noted that suicide rates and ideation are high among the nearly 700,000 people nationwide who have undergone conversion therapy, a widely condemned practice that attempts to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The American Medical Association has concluded that ‘it is clinically and ethically inappropriate for health care providers to direct mental or behavioral health interventions … with a prescriptive goal aimed at achieving a fixed developmental outcome of a child's or adolescents sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression,’” the order stated.

After he signed the executive order, Cooper shared a tweet stating, “Conversion therapy has been shown to pose serious health risks, and we should be protecting all of our children, including those who identify as LGBTQ, instead of subjecting them to a dangerous practice."

LGBTQ advocates praised the move in a state that for years has battled an anti-LGBTQ image — and a major corporate boycott — due to a slew of anti-LGBTQ bills signed by Cooper’s Republican predecessor, Pat McCrory.

“This year our campaign ignited a conversation among North Carolinians about the importance of protecting our kids from ‘conversion therapy.’ It’s gratifying to see Governor Cooper take this critical step in the right direction,” said Kendra R. Johnson, executive director of Equality North Carolina, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group. “No child should be told that they must change their sexual orientation or gender identity; we’re grateful that Gov. Cooper agrees. We are committed to ending this debunked practice and will work for statewide protections.”

In a press release Friday, Equality North Carolina pointed to a February poll that showed the vast majority of North Carolinians support banning conversion therapy — with more Republicans in favor than Democrats.

“It’s rare that we find bipartisan support around an issue in North Carolina, but I think we can all agree that we want the safest and healthiest future for our children,” Johnson said at the time.

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