Columbia City Council has given its initial approval to a measure that would ban professional therapists from offering conversion therapy that attempts to change the sexual orientation of minors in the LGBTQ community.
The Council passed a first reading on the item on Tuesday, with final approval likely to be considered later this month. Tuesday’s vote was unanimous.
As indicated in the future prescription, conversion therapy – sometimes called restorative therapy or ex-gay therapy – is considered “treatment aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change gender behaviors or expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings towards people of the same sex. It is essentially an attempt, through therapy, to change a person’s sexual orientation from gay, lesbian, or bisexual to straight.
The city’s definition of conversion therapy would not include counseling that provides support and assistance to a person in gender transition.
The order would make it illegal “for any provider to provide conversion therapy or restorative therapy to a minor within city limits if the provider receives compensation for those services.” The penalty would be civil, not criminal, and would result in a fine of $ 500.
A number of medical organizations, including the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, have taken a stand against conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth.
“These interventions are provided under the false premise that homosexuality and diverse gender identities are pathological,” the American Academy and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry said on its website. “They are not; the absence of pathology means there is no need for conversion or any other similar intervention.”
Longtime councilor Tameika Isaac Devine, this year’s mayoral candidate, sponsored the city’s conversion therapy ban order. She noted that a ban on conversion therapy for minors is recommended by the National Human Rights Commission and major LGBTQ organizations.
“We felt that was very important as we talk about equality within the city,” Devine told The State. “It’s not just racial equality, it cuts across all lines. We wanted to move forward with this.
To date, 20 states and Washington, DC, have banned conversion therapy for minors. Dozens of cities and counties across the country have also spoken out against the practice. For example, Lincoln, Nebraska, banned conversion therapy for young people in February, and Lexington, Ky., Is on the verge of banning it. Other countries have also banned conversion therapy for young people, including Germany.
But bans on conversion therapy for young people have not always been easily enforced at the local government level. In November 2020, a federal appeals court overturned two conversion therapy bans for young people in Florida, one in the city of Boca Raton and the other in Palm Beach County. According to an NBC News report, the court agreed with two therapists who said their free speech rights had been violated.