RALEIGH, N.C. — On Aug. 2 North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order, EO97 Protecting Minors from Conversion Therapy, directing the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services to ensure that no taxpayer dollars are used for conversion therapy for minors, including North Carolina Medicaid and North Carolina Health Choice, Equality North Carolina (ENC) announced.

This executive action makes North Carolina the first southern state to establish a state-level policy to protect minors from anti-LGBTQ conversion therapy.

In March, ENC and the Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE) launched a joint statewide campaign to end conversion therapy in North Carolina, including through the passage of the Mental Health Protection Act (HB516/SB426). This legislation was proposed in March 2019 to protect minors across the state from the practice. The campaign built momentum for the bill’s passage, including being sponsored by 35 legislators; a coalition of more than 65 organizations, clergy members and mental health agencies; press attention from dozens of outlets; and engagement from hundreds working to protect youth from conversion therapy.

According to polling conducted in February 2019, 80 percent of North Carolinians — including 87 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of Democrats, and 78 percent of Independents support protecting North Carolina’s young people from conversion therapy.

ENC said that in the months ahead, Protect Our Youth NC will share stories of LGBTQ young people, family members of LGBTQ people, faith leaders, mental health professionals, educators, and more who support protecting youth from conversion therapy. This storytelling effort will help educate decision-makers across the state and advocate for lawmakers to pass statewide legislation that definitively and expansively protects minors from conversion therapy.

“What leaders do matters,” said Mathew Shurka, Born Perfect co-founder and conversion therapy survivor. “Gov. Cooper’s executive order sends a clear message that he and his administration will protect LGBTQ youth and ensure that no taxpayer money is spent on this life-threatening practice, which has been condemned by every leading professional medical and mental health organization. Now more than ever, LGBTQ children need to hear that they are born perfect.”

Other comments by LGBTQ rights groups and organizations include:

“Thanks to Gov. Cooper’s leadership, North Carolina is now the first state in the South to take statewide action to protect youth from conversion therapy,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

“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 Gov.Cooper take this critical step in the right direction. 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,” ENC executive director Kendra R. Johnson stated.

“Gov. Cooper’s order will create a safer North Carolina for LGBTQ youth. Young LGBTQ people who endure ‘conversion therapy’ are at an immensely higher risk for depression and suicide than those whose identities are  affirmed, a primary reason that we must do all we can to end this dangerous pseudoscience. As we continue our campaign to end conversion therapy once and for all, we’re looking forward to working across North Carolina to share a message of love and affirmation. We have the momentum, and now it’s time to amplify the voices of North Carolinians everywhere who are taking action to protect our youth,” added Allison Scott, director of policy and programs at CSE.

The Born Perfect campaign to end conversion therapy was founded by NCLR in 2014 to bring survivors and legal experts together to end conversion therapy. Born Perfect has partnered with the Human Rights Campaign and state equality groups across the nation to pass state and local legislation protecting youth.

Eighteen U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia have banned conversion therapy through state-level legislation. Governors in Utah, New York and Puerto Rico have taken executive action on the issue.

info: equalitync.org. southernequality.org. nclrights.org. bornperfect.org. hrc.org.

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.