Friday, September 30

As statewide efforts to outlaw conversion therapy stall, local Ohio municipalities opt to ban it themselves

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As a statewide ban on conversion therapy has stalled out in the Ohio legislature, several local municipalities have taken steps to outlaw the discredited practice within their city’s limits.

Conversion or reparative therapy is any attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. The universally discredited practice — denounced by every major medical and psychological organization — has been shown to increase suicidal ideation, depression and illegal drug use.

Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville) calls the practice “wrong and cruel” and introduced HB 420 on September 14, 2021. The bill would prevent health care professionals from using the practice on Ohio’s vulnerable youth.

HB 420 was assigned to the Ohio House’s Health Committee and then never received a hearing.

Earlier in 2021, SB 50 was introduced by Senators Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Tina Maharath (D-Groveport) on February 4 and would accomplish the same goal as HB 420.

SB 50 was assigned to the Ohio Senate’s Health Committee and also never received a hearing.

Meanwhile, three different Ohio municipalities have moved forward with their own legislation to bar the practice of conversion therapy within their local blueprint.

The city of Cleveland Heights passed legislation on June 21 banning mental health professionals from practicing conversion therapy on minors. The ordinance was part of a slate of policy changes aimed at ensuring inclusivity and equity among LGBTQ+ residents in the Cleveland suburb.

Violations of the ban would be subject to fines ranging from $10,000 to $50,000.

“Essentially you’re causing a child that is coming into an age and trying to find out who they are to question everything about themselves from birth,” council member Anthony Mattox, Jr. said. “It’s (an) extremely dangerous situation to be in.”

The city of Reynoldsburg unanimously passed an ordinance on June 27 banning mental-health professionals from providing conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ minors.

The legislation was brought forward by council member Kristin Bryant who said the measure was inspired by a local resident and was important to help LGBTQ+ youth feel more safe in the Columbus suburb.

“I am happy to have had the opportunity to bring this legislation forward at the request of Michael Perfect, founder of Rainbow Reynoldsburg and graduate of Reynoldsburg High School,” Bryant said. “It is my hope that our LBGTQ+ youth will see this as a sign of respect and our understanding that it is dangerous and harmful to ask people to try to be something they are not.”

The Cleveland City Council introduced an emergency ordinance on July 13 to “prohibit the practice of conversion therapy on minors and prescribing penalties for violation of that section.”

The ordinance is being sponsored by Council members Brian Mooney, Kerry McCormack, Jenny Spencer, Rebecca Maurer, and Stephanie Howse.

The ordinance is currently under “administrative review.”

Conversion therapy is currently banned in seven other Ohio municipalities: Athens, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Kent, Lakewood and Toledo.

Notably, the Cincinnati ordinance was inspired by the death of 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn in 2014.  Alcorn’s parents refused to accept her gender identity and sent her to Christian-based conversion therapy.

In her suicide note, she wrote “The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights… My death needs to mean something.”

Council person Chris Seelbach shared her note on social media, which quickly resulted in worldwide attention and helped increase awareness about the plight of many trans youth. The following month, Cincinnati became the second municipality — after Washington D.C. — and the first U.S. city to ban conversion therapy. 🔥

Ignite Action:

  • LOBBY YOUR REPRESENTATIVE! Go to this map, enter your address, and it will link you to your representative. Reach out to them. It makes a difference. 
  • Write to the members of the Health Committee and ask them to schedule a hearing on HB 420. 
  • If you have gone through conversion therapy in the last 8 years, Equality Ohio recommends that you fill out a complaint with the Ohio Licensing Board, which you can do here.

About Author

Ken Schneck is the Editor of The Buckeye Flame. He received the 2021 Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for the LGBTQ Journalist of the Year from the NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists. He is the author of "Seriously, What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew" (2017), "LGBTQ Cleveland" (2018), "LGBTQ Columbus" (2019), and "LGBTQ Cincinnati" (2020). In his spare time, he is a professor of education at Baldwin Wallace University.

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