Therapists who attempt to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ minors through conversion therapy could be fined up to $500 and spend as much as six months in jail, if the Kansas City Council approves an ordinance passed by a committee Wednesday.
The proposed ban calls conversion therapy "ineffective" and "harmful." It’s also been debunked by the American Psychological Association.
But, opponents say outlawing it would infringe on the rights of people who want the therapy.
Andrew Comiskey of Desert Stream Ministries said as a teenager he identified as gay, but sought out conversion therapy to become heterosexual.
“This whole reparative therapy situation is a boogeyman,” Comiskey said. “Everyone is making it a fascist, Nazi-like, electroshock reality.”
However, most of the speakers gave emotional testimony in favor of the ban. Independence resident Zachary Mallory said he still suffers from trauma inflicted when his pastor used conversion therapy on him when he was 17.
“He would show images of sexual acts and if I was to get aroused, per se, he would send an electric shock throughout my entire body,” Mallory said. “The purpose of this was to associate pain with my attraction. Conversion therapy was one of the darkest times of my life.”
In his presentation to the committee, A.J. Herrmann, directory of policy for Mayor Quinton Lucas, said the measure is meant to protect children’s physical and emotional health.
He said the ordinance applies to any professional who provides conversion therapy in exchange for compensation. But it does not cover other contexts, like a discussion between parents and their children.
“There is strong evidence that attempting to force someone to change their sexual orientation or identity is discriminatory and harmful,” Herrmann said. “It is also substantially dangerous to an individual’s mental and physical well-being.”
He said people who have been subject to conversion therapy are more likely to have depression and to kill themselves.
The full council will hear the measure next week.
Avery Gott is a news intern at KCUR.