Columbia City Council members showed unanimous support of a house bill that would ban conversion therapy during their meeting on Monday.
The vote was to support Missouri House Bill 516, which would prohibit mental health professionals from practicing conversation therapy with anyone under the age of 18. Boone County State Representative Martha Stevens co-sponsored the bill. Mayor Brian Treece requested the council to prepare the resolution on Feb. 4.
“Columbia’s always been a leader when it comes to nondiscrimination and pro-equality ordinances,” Treece said. “We heard some strong testimony during our public comment section two weeks ago. I think one of the easiest, promptest things we can do is support House Bill 516.”
The American Psychiatry Association said in a statement that it is opposed to conversion therapy, and says it represents “a significant risk of harm by subjecting individuals to forms of treatment which have not been scientifically validated and by undermining self-esteem when sexual orientation fails to change.”
Dayan Reynolds, a student at the University of Missouri, urged the council to ban conversion therapy in Columbia if the bill does not go anywhere. Reynolds grew up in Joplin, Missouri with a father who worked as a conversion therapist and practiced on other kids.
“I can’t imagine what they went through. Unfortunately, I can’t know personally because of confidentiality agreements,” Reynolds said. “However, I can attest that I simply lived with him for two years and while being ‘out’ and I ended up developing a mental disorder after I left and I haven’t been able to go back to that house.”
The William’s Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimates in a 2018 report that 20,000 LGBTQ ages 13-17 will receive conversion therapy from a licensed healthcare professional before the time they are 18 years old. About 698,000 LGBT adults ages 18-59 have received conversion therapy. There are 15 states that ban conversion therapy.
The City of Columbia Human Rights Commission also released a report with more background information and a strong recommendation to ban conversion therapy in Columbia. The commission previously voted on Feb. 5 to work with the city’s law department to draft legislation to recommending that Columbia adopt an ordinance that would make conversion therapy a Class A misdemeanor.
“I am very hopeful that we will get to occupy a space of leadership and implement something like that in this community,” Andrea Waner, chair of the Columbia human rights commission said.