Columbia city council members are expected to discuss banning conversion therapy at next week’s meeting on Oct. 7. Members are looking to modify Chapter 16 of the city code to prohibit the practice of conversion therapy, or trying to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, on minors by licensed healthcare providers. If this ordinance is passed, Columbia will be the first municipality in the state of Missouri to ban this practice, according to Andrea Waner, a board member for the City of Columbia Human Rights Commission. She said the practice of conversion therapy is a practice still occurring in Missouri that is under the radar.
“It’s not like you’re going to Google it and get a list of providers that do it,” Waner said. “But there are lots of folks that have come forward and said, ‘hey this happened to me’ or ‘this happened to my child’ or any number of things in our community.”
Waner said the commission has been working on an ordinance about this issue for almost two years and it has been a thoughtful and extensive process.
“Some munipalities are seeing lawsuits and so trying to understand what the basics of those lawsuits are when we are trying to construct something that we think could withstand something like that has taken up some of our time,” Waner said.
The ordinance was first heard at the Sept. 16 city council meeting and will be open for public comment at the Oct. 7 meeting. Waner said this would be a strong move for the community.
“You know, coming into contact with something like conversion therapy just presents additional and unnecessary risks, and that’s totally preventable,” Waner said. “If we have the ability to step up and occupy this space of moral leadership, we should.”