Columbus City Council is considering legislation to ban the use of so-called "conversion therapy" on LGBTQ youth.
A bevy of medical and psychological organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, have denounced the practice of using treatment to try and change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity. They cite the harmful effects on young people. Council president and City Attorney candidate Zack Klein is spearheading the legislation that got a public hearing last night.
Several Ohio municipalities, including Cincinnati, Toledo, and Cleveland, have already enacted similar bans. This legislation bars any licensed, certified or registered mental health professional from providing conversion therapy to any minor. A violation would be a misdemeanor punishable by a 5oo dollar fine and one year in jail. Danielle Smith of the Ohio Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers says similar legislation has been introduced at the state level, but has gone nowhere in the Republican-controlled General Assembly. She says this measure could help put pressure on the state and would set an example for professionals.
Kim Welter of the advocacy group Equality Ohio, one of the organizations that asked for this legislation, says it's difficult to quantify how often the therapy is being used in Columbus, and how many practitioners are using it.
And it's not clear how the measure would be enforced. But that's okay, says Jody Davis, a transgender woman invited by council to speak last night about her story and how she was motivated to enter the field of social work.
No one at last night's hearing spoke against the measure, but opponents have said the ban is unnecessary because there's no evidence the practice is being used in Columbus. One person who spoke in favor is Georgianna Persons, who talked about her transgender daughter.
Persons says her daughter attempted suicide, but was saved by a friend and is now doing well thanks to the professional help she has received. She says this measure would send a signal to others like her daughter.
Council president Klein did not say when the panel will vote on the proposal. This is an election year for City Council. Its members count the LGBTQ community as one of their strongest voting blocs.