ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The top Republican in the Minnesota Senate, who helped defeat a proposed ban on so-called gay conversion therapy for minors, sent his daughter to a therapist opposed to gay relationships after suspecting she had a same-sex attraction when she was a teenager, the Star Tribune reported Friday.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, a conservative Christian from Nisswa, led his caucus in voting down a Democratic proposal May 1 against the practice of trying to turn gay people straight.
"I cry over this issue," he told the newspaper , choking up during an interview.
Genna Gazelka, 30, who uses the pronoun "they" and now identifies as bi-gender, recalled being sent to a therapist who decried same-sex relations. The therapist was Marcus Bachmann, the husband of former U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, a fiery conservative Christian who ran for president in 2012
"This is harassment and it is tantamount to what could be said of torture or sexual torture," Genna Gazelka said of conversion therapy.
Genna Gazelka, who decided to go public because of the vote, also expressed hope that the ban will pass and, eventually, a family relationship that had become strained by their differences will be fully repaired.
Paul Gazelka acknowledged sending his child to therapy, but said it was for healing, not for sexual identity conversion. Now he said he's working to find a compromise that would ban coercive therapy techniques on children while preserving the right of therapists and pastors to speak freely with their patients, particularly those who say they are struggling with an unwanted same-sex attraction.
Some GOP senators threatened during the debate to vote down their own health and human services budget bill if the conversion ban was attached to it, while others still want to see the ban enacted this year. The majority leader has now turned to Sen. Scott Jensen to find a compromise that eluded them before. Jensen, a physician and Charka Republican, said his lesbian daughter helped change the views he learned growing up in a small, traditional town. But his patients are an even bigger influence on his thinking. He said he's seen teens and adults struggle with depression, sometimes deciding to end their own lives.
Sen. Scott Dibble, an openly gay Minneapolis Democrat who authorized the amendment that was defeated, said he feels momentum.
"Something very powerful is happening," Dibble said. "Hearts are being shifted and moved. Minds are being changed."
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