SEATTLE – The Council committee handling civil rights affairs unanimously approved an ordinance today banning conversion therapy for minors in Seattle. The legislation, sponsored by Councilmember M. Lorena González (City-wide), would add a new chapter to the City’s existing human rights code and would prohibit licensed mental health providers from practicing conversion therapy on minor children by making it a civil violation penalized by a fee of up to $1,000. Conversion therapy is a largely discredited practice that claims to use therapeutic tools to “cure” people of their same-sex attractions or non-conforming gender identity.
“I’d like to thank the LGBTQ advocates who reached out to my office months ago, said Councilmember González. “It is because of their advocacy that we now have this piece of legislation before us, and I’m proud to be the prime sponsor of a bill that affirms equity and the simple truth that being gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, queer or transgender is not an illness.”
“Conversion therapy is a dangerous, harmful practice resoundingly denounced by the medical mental health community,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “It endangers the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ individuals and leads to increased rates of depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness and suicide. Our youth are particularly susceptible to the harms of conversion therapy and they often lack the ability to standup or advocate for themselves. I thank Councilmember González for introducing this critical piece of legislation in support of the LGBTQ community, and look forward to signing it into law following passage by the full Council.”
The legislation prohibits licensed providers from practicing conversion therapy on minors, with a $500 fine for the first violation, and up to $1,000 for any subsequent violations. Advertising for conversion therapy would also be prohibited, punishable as a misdemeanor. The Seattle Office for Civil Rights would be responsible for enforcement of the law.
If adopted by Full Council, Seattle will join Cincinnati, Miami Beach and Washington DC as the fourth city to ban gay conversion therapy. California, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont and New Jersey have also enacted statewide prohibitions. Advocates approached Councilmember González to establish a ban on conversion therapy in Seattle following failed attempts for state-wide legislation at the Washington State Legislature.
Monisha Harrell, Chair of the Equal Rights Washington Board of Directors, said, “Conversion Therapy is a practice that needed to end yesterday. I thank the committee for their action today, and I’m looking forward to Full Council’s adoption. Next, we turn back to the legislature where we’ll redouble our efforts to achieve a statewide ban.”
Full Council is scheduled to consider final adoption of the legislation at 2 p.m. on August 1. Dozens of organizations have voiced opposition to the practice of conversion therapy, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Association of Child Adolescent Psychiatry.
Councilmember González developed a white paper summarizing the research and prevalence of conversion therapy here.
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