Remembering Leelah Alcorn, Cincinnati Takes Step Toward Conversion Therapy Ban

Leelah Alcorn
Leelah Alcorn

Cincinnati has taken a step toward banning the use of so-called ex-gay or conversion therapy on minors.

The City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee approved the ban by a vote of 7-2 Monday night, and the full council will consider the measure Wednesday, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

Councilman Chris Seelbach, the council’s only openly gay member, proposed the ordinance. He said he had been subjected to conversion therapy as a youth, and he also invoked the memory of Leelah Alcorn, the 17-year-old transgender girl from nearby Warren County, Ohio, who committed suicide a year ago, after undergoing such therapy.  

“This is not a partisan issue,” Seelbach said. “This is a matter of life and death for LGBT young people.”

Council member Kevin Flynn, who voted yes in the committee, said he initially wondered if this was something beyond the council’s power. “I was worried that this was something that the city couldn’t do,” he said, according to the Enquirer. “Not that we shouldn’t do it. But I didn’t think we could do it. But with help from the city solicitor’s office and in doing my own research over the weekend, I’ve come to the conclusion that we must do it.”

California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, and the District of Columbia have all banned use of the practice, designed to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, by government-licensed therapists on minors. Unlicensed counselors, such as clergy members, are still free to engage in such therapy. A statewide ban is pending in the Ohio legislature.

The practice has been condemned by every major U.S. mental health organization as not only ineffective but harmful. President Obama and other officials in his administration have spoken out against it, and a bill has been introduced in Congress to classify it as a form of consumer fraud. This year a New Jersey court ruled that such therapy is fraud.

The Cincinnati ordinance would impose a $200-a-day fine on practitioners of conversion therapy.

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