City Moves Toward Ban on Conversion Therapy for LGBTQ Youth
KANSAS CITY, Mo.—Kansas City took a step Wednesday toward becoming the second city in Missouri to ban conversion therapy for minors following more than an hour of emotional testimony from a packed room of LGBTQ residents and advocates.
Conversion therapy, often associated with religious groups, is intended to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Last month, Columbia banned the practice for minors.
Critics, including LGBTQ groups and leading medical and mental health professional associations, contend it’s not effective and is often dangerous. More than half of young people who have been through conversion therapy reported a suicide attempt in the last year, according to a survey by the Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth.
“It makes you believe that you are unworthy of existence,” said Sam Brinton, head of advocacy for the Trevor Project, who went through conversion therapy. “The very idea that a flip can be switched and we are no longer LGBTQ is a lie.”
Brinton said they wished someone had been able to help.
“This hurt me and it needs to stop,” Brinton said.
The council’s Finance, Governance and Public Safety Committee voted unanimously with little debate to approve the ordinance, which was introduced by Mayor Quinton Lucas. The full council could vote on the issue as soon as Nov. 14.
Lucas, who announced on Twitter last month that he would pursue the proposal, said he took notice of Columbia’s decision to ban the practice.
“I find it to be interesting, progressive and helpful legislation that could keep people from harm,” Lucas said. “And so I thought it was important that our office take the lead on that as well.”
Proponents recounted personal stories of extreme methods of therapy and suicidal thoughts. Zachary Mallory said he went through conversion therapy at his church, where the pastor would show images of sexual acts and use shock therapy if Mallory became aroused.
“Conversion therapy was one of the … darkest times of my life, and every night, I still deal with waking up from nightmares and flashbacks,” Mallory said.
Joel Barrett, a former Baptist minister, said he knew the impact of conversion therapy because he “spent his entire life being told he could be not both gay and godly.”
“I know the emotional, spiritual and psychological damage done to me as an adult,” Barrett said. “No minor should be subjected to this harmful practice.”
He said conversion therapy in his 30s was the only time he “ever seriously considered dying as a better alternative to living.”
The ordinance the committee approved would ban the practice for anyone under the age of 18, but would allow it to continue for adults. It applies to licensed providers in medical and mental health professions, including counselors, psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists and behavior analysts. It does not bar religious leaders from speaking with youth about their sexuality.
While the majority of attendees supported the ban, there was vocal opposition from several organizations.
Andrew Comiskey, who founded Desert Stream Living Waters to provide Christian-based sexual counseling, said he identified as gay as a teen but chose to pursue faith.
“My wife today is grateful. Four children later, six grandchildren later — best decision I ever made,” Comiskey said. “I believe this bill is wrong because it bans choice for persons like me. It says one way forward for vulnerable youth — that is the LGBT way and no other way.”
Dino Durando, who represents the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, said he understood the interest in the proposal and believed that Mallory was “tortured,” but said that shock treatment was clearly already illegal because the church wasn’t qualified to administer it.
Durando said the diocese believes the proposal is “over broad in its reach” and an “inappropriate encroachment by a city’s police power into the work of professionals who are already well regulated by professional licensing standards and state law.”
©2019 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)
Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
In The News
DETROIT — An advocacy group is suing Detroit election officials, claiming they violated the National Voter Registration Act by failing to properly maintain city voting rolls, including listing long-dead residents and keeping multiple registrations for the same people. The “failure” to comply with federal voter registration... Read More
Ohio's Secretary of State on Wednesday referred the names of 18 voters to prosecutors for allegedly casting multiple votes in the 2018 mid-term election. Secretary Frank LaRose said the voters were identified through the Electronic Registration Information Center, a coalition of states sharing data in order... Read More
ATLANTA — Judges on the federal appeals court in Atlanta on Thursday peppered lawyers with questions in a case that could set an important precedent for bathroom access by transgender high school students. Two judges, both members of the more liberal wing of the 11th U.S.... Read More
WASHINGTON - A Virginia commission tasked with researching racist laws adopted in the state's past recommended Thursday that scores of them be officially repealed, including measures that prevented black voters from casting ballots and prohibited interracial marriage. "The devastating long-term social, economic, and political impact of... Read More
MIAMI — As part of his effort to help down-ballot Democrats grow their numbers in the Capitol, one-time gubernatorial candidate and former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has decided on 21 candidates to endorse and support financially in 2020. Gillum’s Forward Florida political committee expects to spend... Read More
WASHINGTON — The House Ways and Means Committee could take up legislation as early as next week that would increase a limit on state and local tax deductions that has riled Democrats from high-cost regions, according to a senior panel member. The “SALT” bill, which has... Read More