North Carolina’s state health department is barred from allowing public funds to pay for conversion therapy for minors, a controversial practice aimed at changing young LGBT people’s sexual orientations, under an order signed Friday by Gov. Roy Cooper.

Advocacy groups praised the Democratic governor’s executive order as a pioneering step to restrict the therapy in the U.S. South.

Cooper’s order forbids funds controlled by executive branch agencies from paying for such therapy for minors. That includes state and federal money for the state’s Medicaid program and NC Health Choice insurance for children in low- and middle-income families.

The governor’s order defines conversion therapy as practices meant to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to stifle certain behaviors or reduce romantic feelings toward the same sex.

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