Council votes to ban gay ‘conversion’ therapy in Cincinnati
Almost two dozen pastors and citizens packed Cincinnati Council Chambers on Wednesday in an organized effort to stop a proposed city ban on so-called “conversion” therapy for gay youth.
In the end, council voted 7-2 to pass the law, which prohibits therapy designed to change sexual orientation or gender identity for minors, and imposes a $200-a-day fine on violators. Cincinnati follows four states – California, Oregon, Illinois and New Jersey – and the District of Columbia banning the therapy, becoming the first city outside of D.C. to do so.
Council members Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn were against imposing such a law.
“This is about saving the lives of LGBT people,” said Councilman Chris Seelbach, who led the effort to bring the ban to the city. He spoke of Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teenager who killed herself last December; her suicide note cited the controversial therapy to which she had been subjected.
“She challenged us to make her death matter, and we’re doing just that,” Seelbach said.
Twenty-one people spoke out against the ban during Council’s comment period, decrying it as an assault on free speech and freedom of religion.
“I believe the city should stay out of this,” said Dr. Dan Ferrell, a pastor. “It says something about you. Maybe other cities have better sense.”
“This Council will create another another type of bondage for something people themselves have a right to seek liberty from,” said Bishop Victor Cousins.
“I want government to stay out of the bedroom,” said Edward Hyde.
No speakers identified themselves as conversion therapists.
The lone person speaking on behalf of the law, John Boggess, the Board Chairman of Equality Ohio, countered those against the ban, saying, “This is a matter of public safety.”
Scott Greenwood, a local constitutional civil rights lawyer and gay rights activist said the law can withstand scrutiny.
“The people who referred to this as free speech or freedom of religion are misguided because if it’s therapy, then it’s medical therapy,” Greenwood said. “By definition, that is not speech and not free exercise of religion.
“So, there is no problem regulating this. There is no First Amendment angle to this. It’s misguided to favor this totally debunked junk science and claim that it is somehow protected as religious expression.”
In April, President Barack Obama condemned gay conversion therapy, mentioning Alcorn. In her letter, Alcorn said her parents took her to Christian therapists, but it did not help.
Most mental-health professional organizations such as the American Psychological Association have spoken out against the therapeutic practice as not useful and possibly harmful to patients.