Columbia is now the first city in Missouri to ban conversion therapy on minors. In last night’s city council meeting there was an unanimous vote to ban conversion therapy on juveniles by licenced healthcare providers. According to the ordinance, “conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, ex-gay therapy, or sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts, is a range of discredited practices aimed at changing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” During the meeting, eleven people, including community members, psychologists and LBGTQ group officials, shared their testimonies on this therapy, which they’ve labeled as “dangerous” and “traumatic.” This is due to the negative outcomes that come from conversion therapy, including depression and suicide.
Andrea Waner is a board member of the City of Columbia Human Rights Commission. She said she has never encountered anyone who received a good experience from conversion therapy. “I think conversion therapy is a really harmful and discredited practice that we have a lot of research by professional organizations that says it’s not a great practice,” Waner said. “It’s harmful and dangerous to use on anybody, especially for kids. I think it’s something a lot of communities should look into to get rid of any make it unlawful.”
Amanda Loucks experienced conversion therapy in the Moberly and Columbia areas as a senior in high school. She said a unanimous decision was an empowering statement for the LGBTQ community, especially after experiencing that trauma.
“We live in a culture that tells us every day that our lives don’t matter. And today in this council chambers, we had the opportunity to have people say, ‘You know what, it absolutely does. You deserve to live and we want to see you live,’ and so that’s amazing,” Loucks said.
An LGBTQ youth group coordinator of PRISM, Melina Constantine, said they knew the City Council would approve this ordinance.
“This has been a long time coming. I think it’ll represent more than just what’s happening in our city. I think it gives hope [to] people in other cities that they could do this as well,” Constantine said. “We have to protect LBGTQ youth. So, it’s great that we did this here in Columbia because it has larger symbolic ramifications so I’m happy about that.”
Mayor Brian Treece said it was the council’s responsibility to protect the youth before voting unanimously to pass the ordinance.
“There’s broad consensus in the medical and psychological communities that gender identity and sexual orientation are immutable traits that can’t be cured, treated or repaired,” Treece said, “I thought it was important that as a city we send a loud and clear statement that Columbia is a medical destination, for both health care providers and the families that bring their children here we only provide confident care.”
The ordinance went into effect with its passage.