Cincinnati tonight became only the second city in the nation to ban the use of “ex-gay” or “conversion” therapy on minors.
The City Council voted 7-2 to ban the practice, following a favorable vote two nights ago by the Budget and Finance Committee, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports. The ordinance adopted by the council imposes a $200-a-day fine for violation. Washington, D.C., has prohibited use of the discredited therapy on minors, as have California, New Jersey, Oregon, and Illinois.
About two dozen citizens, including several ministers, attended tonight’s meeting to speak on the subject, the Enquirer reports, and all but one opposed the ordinance. “This council will create another type of bondage for something people themselves have a right to seek liberty from,” said Bishop Victor Couzens, a local Baptist minister.
“I believe the city should stay out of this,” said another clergy member, Dan Ferrell. “It says something about you. Maybe other cities have better sense.”
Some speakers said the ordinance would interfere with freedom of speech and religion, but Scott Greenwood, a constitutional civil rights lawyer and gay rights activist, said it would not.
“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.”
Like the laws enacted in other jurisdictions, the Cincinnati ordinance would apply only to state-licensed therapists, meaning unlicensed counselors, such as clergy members, could still try to “pray away the gay.”
Chris Seelbach, the only openly gay council member and the ordinance’s sponsor, said the law “is about saving the lives of LGBT people.” He mentioned Leelah Alcorn, the transgender teen from a neighboring community who killed herself a year ago, after being subjected to conversion therapy.
“She challenged us to make her death matter, and we’re doing just that,” Seelbach said.