Seattle City Council moves toward banning 'gay conversion' therapy
SEATTLE -- A controversial type of therapy aimed at altering the sexual orientation of children is on track to be banned in Seattle.
On Tuesday, a subcommittee of the Seattle City Council was unanimous in their support of outlawing conversion therapy. The measure heads to the full council on Monday; Mayor Ed Murray says he fully supports the ban.
"This new proposed law is a critical step in affirming LGBTQ youth and their identity," Councilmember M. Lorena Gonzalez said before the hearing.
Gonzalez sponsored the bill, which will prohibit licensed mental health providers from practicing conversion therapy on minors. Once enacted into law, anyone caught practicing conversion therapy on children could face a fee of up to $1,000.
The bill would also make advertising for conversion therapy services in Seattle a potential criminal misdemeanor, council staff said.
If the ban passes Seattle will become the fourth city in the United States to outlaw conversion therapy - joining Cincinnati, Miami Beach and Washington D.C., according to the council. While supporters have attempted repeatedly to have a statewide ban they say they have not been successful in the Legislature.
"What we do know is it's not medically sound and it has essentially be debunked by all the medical and psychological associations," said Monisha Harrell, from Equal Rights Washington.
Consultant Marsha Botzer, who along with Harrell testified before the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee on Tuesday, said that banning conversion therapy on youth is something she has been working on for nearly 30 years.
"Children should never be placed in a position of being hurt so horribly as this kind of so called therapy does," Botzer said. "All of us see individuals who come to come to us who tell tales of having been forced into being kidnapped into being taken to that kind of horrible therapy."
During Tuesday's committee hearing Kevin Amos testified against the ban.
"If parents' rights to teach, or train, their children about religious view are taken away I guarantee every one of your seats up in here are over with and you'll be out," he told committee members.
Danny Cords, who was subjected to conversion therapy as a teenager, watched the committee vote carefully.
"I'm glad that we're finally talking about it," Cords said Tuesday. "Seattle is only a small chunk of the world right and we need to get this out broader."
While Cords said his parents sent him to several years of "abusive" conversion therapy, he said that once they realized the traumatic impact it was having on him they pulled him out.
"Fourteen, came out of the closet, my parents put me into conversion therapy because they didn't know where else to turn and that was our only resource," Cords said.
After the committee vote, Murray condemned conversion therapy.
"What we do know is that when this therapy is attempted it's pretty destructive and often ends in suicide, especially among young people," the Mayor said.
The full City Council will consider the proposal on Aug. 1.