Seattle Bans Conversion Therapy for Minors

Seattle Skyline
Photo by Daniel Schwen/Wikimedia Commons

The Republican Party platform states that parents should have the final say on therapy for their children, a plank widely interpreted as endorsing “ex-gay” therapy — but the number of local governments that don’t agree just got larger.

The Seattle City Council today approved an ordinance barring licensed health care providers from subjecting anyone under 18 to “ex-gay” therapy, sometimes called “conversion” or “reparative” therapy, designed to turn LGBT people straight or cisgender. Every major U.S. health care organization has termed the practice not only ineffective but harmful.

“Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, or transgender is not an illness,” said Councilmember Lorena González, the ordinance’s chief sponsor, when introducing it, reports local newspaper The Stranger. “Nor is it something that needs a cure.” The council passed the ordinance by a vote of 9-0.

The Seattle ordinance provides for a fine of $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for any violation after that, The Stranger reports. There will also be misdemeanor charges for advertising conversion therapy.

Seattle becomes the 10th jurisdiction to enact such a ban, joining California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, New York, Vermont, Cincinnati, Washington, D.C., and Miami Beach, Fla. Seattle may be one of the nation’s most liberal cities, but support for conversion therapy bans has crossed ideological and partisan lines. The Illinois ban, for instance, was introduced by a Democratic lesbian legislator from Chicago, Kelly Cassidy, but signed into law by a very conservative Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, who has opposed Democratic lawmakers on many other issues.

González praised local LGBT activists for their work in support of the Seattle ordinance, and advocacy groups praised the council’s action. “Today, Seattle has taken a bold step to save children’s lives, and its children have received a clear message that they were born perfect,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights youth policy counsel Carolyn Reyes in a press release. NCLR’s #BornPerfect campaign seeks to end conversion therapy nationwide by 2019, and the group has joined the Human Rights Campaign and Southern Poverty Law Center in a consumer fraud lawsuit against a major provider of such therapy.

President Obama and high-ranking members of his administration have spoken out against conversion therapy, and members of Congress have proposed that the Federal Trade Commission declare it a form of consumer fraud and therefore illegal. So the Republican platform — although a platform, of course, is a wish list that includes many things that may never come to fruition — definitely appears to be swimming against the tide.

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