On Monday, Akron become the 10th municipality in Ohio to ban the practice of conversion therapy on minors.
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan’s administration proposed the legislation, which the Akron City Council then passed unanimously.
Conversion therapy — also sometimes called reparative or reintegrative therapy — is a set of widely condemned practices designed to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Conversion therapy practices have been banned in more than 20 states and rejected by every major medical association, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association.
Councilmembers heard testimony in support of the ordinance from several LGBTQ+ advocates, including Casey Pick, senior fellow for advocacy and public affairs at the Trevor Project.
“These practices take many forms, from talk therapy — which might look a lot like therapy you or I might get — to retreats and camps,” she said. “Whatever form it takes, all conversion therapy is premised on the idea that sexual orientation and gender identity are something that can or should change, and all of it is harmful.”
According to a 2022 national survey on LGBTQ+ youth mental health issues, about 17% of the 34,000 respondents (age 13-24) reported being threatened with conversion therapy or having experienced it directly.
“Progress like this is made possible by the work of community advocates, grassroots organizers, and supportive local leadership,” Pick added via a written statement. “We hope that Akron’s action helps spark leaders across Ohio to follow suit with statewide protections.”
As they did with the ban passed in Cleveland last week, Equality Ohio supported these efforts to outlaw conversion therapy.
“We know that equality means passing protections like Akron has now done—and, as Barbara Gittings said, ‘equality is more than that.’ Equality is won by changing the hearts and minds of the community. Akron has now achieved both,” said Alana Jochum, executive director of Equality Ohio. “We are proud of the great work this community has done alongside local government to protect its youth against an immoral, harmful practice. We look forward to a future where LGBTQ+ youth feel safe coming out here and across the entire state.”
20 U.S. states and 100 municipalities have passed similar legislation.
“This is a critical step to protect children from malfeasance described as care,” said Jochum.
According to the 2020 Greater Akron LGBTQ+ Community Needs Assessment, about 50% of respondents reported feeling pressured or being forced to participate in conversion therapy.
Akron’s new legislation is enforceable by the Civil Rights Commission. Complaints received would be handled in the same way anti-discrimination complaints are currently heard.
“We all have a responsibility to protect our youth,” said Akron councilmember Sharon Connor.
Akron joins 10 other Ohio municipalities to ban the discredited practice: Athens, Cincinnati, Cleveland, 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.”
“There are so many Leelah Alcorns out there,” said Akron councilmember Tara Mosley-Samples, thanking experts who gave testimony. “I appreciate all the work you’re doing in that space.”
In a September article for Ideastream Public Media, a Cleveland pastor identified a space in Akron named Emerge Counseling Ministries as the site where he was subjected to conversion therapy. The Buckeye Flame reached out to Emerge for comment on Akron’s ban on conversion therapy, but we did not receive a reply.
Two bills currently sit in the Ohio legislature to ban conversion therapy statewide — HB 420 in the House and SB 50 in the Senate — but neither has received a single hearing. 🔥