State Sen. Dan Hall and Rep. Hunter Cantrell both represent Savage, but they stand apart in their beliefs about homosexuality and gay conversion therapy.
Cantrell, a gay man and Democrat from Savage, pushed this year for a state ban on therapy meant to change a child or vulnerable adult’s sexual orientation or gender identity. He and others argued the approach harms kids’ mental health and can push them to suicide.
Hall, a Republican and Christian minister in Burnsville, joined other Senate Republicans in voting down the proposal in April. As the Twin Cities Pride parade celebrated sexual diversity in Minneapolis last month, Hall joined the Freedom March, which organizers described as “celebrating freedom from homosexual/transgender lifestyles by the grace and power of Jesus Christ.”
The American Psychological Association and other mental health professional organizations around the country have found same-sex attraction is a normal, positive variation of human sexuality and that efforts to overcome it are unlikely to work and can lead to distress, depression and anxiety in minors and adults.
The association has also said people who oppose their own attractions and feelings should receive supportive therapy that doesn’t impose a particular orientation.
Cantrell said he has a supportive family and hasn’t experienced attempts to change his sexuality, but he pointed to several others who spoke to legislators during this year’s session about the suffering such attempts caused.
“At the end of the day, we all want to protect the health and well-being of children,” Cantrell said, adding he plans to try again for the ban in future sessions.
Opponents raised concerns about free speech and families’ ability to seek out the kind of counseling they want. Cantrell said his bill wouldn’t affect religious settings or most adults but only therapy with medical professionals, whose licensing and behavior are regulated by the state.
Hall said the state should stop anything dangerous, but as far as he knows there’s little to no dangerous conversion happening in Minnesota. He attended the Freedom March with a friend who renounced homosexuality, he said, and anyone who wants to do so should be able to.
“If a child doesn’t want help in that issue, then there’s no sense trying to help, anyway,” he said. “Those in my position care deeply about those in homosexual lifestyles and would like to help if they want it.”
City Pages, an alternative newspaper in the Twin Cities, first reported Hall’s attendance of the event.
Hall said it wasn’t particularly uncomfortable to share part of his legislative district with a gay man, no more than with someone having any other kind of disagreement.
Cantrell said he found it sad and disappointing that some people are still trying to undermine the social and legal progress gay, bisexual and transgender people have made.
Around two-thirds of Minnesotan adult survey respondents said homosexuality should be accepted, according to 2014 data from the Pew Research Center.