At Monday’s meeting, the Cleveland City Council voted unanimously to ban the practice of conversion therapy on minors.
“Conversion therapy is a debunked practice,” said Councilman Brian Mooney. “The practice is harmful, especially on vulnerable minors. This ordinance provides substantive criminal penalties to make sure it doesn’t happen in Cleveland.”
Under the ban, any mental health professional providing conversion therapy to those 17 and younger in Cleveland could be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The ordinance was sponsored by councilmembers Brian Mooney, Kerry McCormack, Jenny Spencer, Rebecca Maurer, and Stephanie Howse.
The Trevor Project and Equality Ohio worked with local advocates and and community members to help bring this legislation forward.
“It is heartening to see Cleveland join the growing number of cities across Ohio taking a stand to support LGBTQ youth by passing protections from the harms of so-called conversion ‘therapy’ — which has been consistently associated with increased suicide risk,” said Gwen Stembridge (she/her), Advocacy Campaign Manager for The Trevor Project. “This would not be possible without the partnership of grassroots advocates, community leaders, and organizations like Equality Ohio. We hope that Cleveland’s bold action sparks statewide leaders across the Buckeye State to follow suit with increased protections for LGBTQ youth across Ohio.”
“Practices of so-called conversion ‘therapy’ are not only immoral and ineffective, they are extremely harmful. Our precious youth deserve to feel seen, accepted and loved — and that’s exactly what Cleveland has done by passing this ordinance,” said Alana Jochum (she/her), Executive Director for Equality Ohio. “There is mounting evidence against the long-term physical and psychological impacts of conversion therapy. The only solution is to prohibit the practice and give parents the most accurate information on how to best support their LGBTQ children. Until Ohio protects our youth against this harm statewide, we will continue to support these ordinances one locality at a time.”
Cleveland joins nine other Ohio municipalities to ban the discredited practice: Athens, Cincinnati, Cleveland Heights, Columbus, Dayton, Kent, Lakewood, Reynoldsburg and Toledo.
Notably in 2015, Cincinnati became the first city in the country to pass such an ordinance, which was inspired by the death of 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn.
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.”
Councilperson 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.
“Her parents forced her to go to conversion therapy and isolate herself from all of her friends and support systems. That led her to step in front of a semi to take her own life,” said Seelbach, himself a survivor of conversion therapy. “That started a conversation around the entire world about how harmful conversion therapy really is.”
Two bills currently sit in the Ohio legislature to ban conversion therapy — HB 420 in the House and SB 50 in the Senate — but neither has received a single hearing.
- If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting 678678.
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