ROELAND PARK, Kansas (June 2, 2020) — The City Council of Roeland Park, Kansas, last evening voted 7-0 for an ordinance banning conversion therapy.
The ordinance bans efforts by mental-health providers to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Such efforts have proven to be harmful and sometimes fatal, and destructive to families.
Jae Moyer of Equality Kansas of Metro Kansas City thanked three key city councilmembers for sponsoring the ordinance: Jan Faidley, Benjamin Thomas, and Jennifer Hill.
Moyer, Rep. Susan Ruiz, Born Perfect and others spoke during the council’s first consideration of the ordinance. The Trevor Project provided additional support.
Born Perfect Co-Founder Mathew Shurka spoke to the city council of his experiences as a survivor. Starting at age 16, Shurka spent five years in traumatizing and depressing treatments, including being erroneously taught that an overbearing mother and distant father were responsible for his homosexuality — resulting in years of family strife.
“Cities across America are saving our lives by banning therapy that is rooted in false blame and extreme shame,” Shurka said today. “Conversion therapy destroys families. It harms youth. It has led to the suicide of people we knew and loved. We’re grateful to Roeland Park leaders who passed this ordinance unanimously. They have reaffirmed that LGBTQ youth are born perfect.”
Councilmembers: Room to do more
Before the vote, councilmembers asked if the ordinance could be extended to adults under guardianship, or to unlicensed individuals or organizations that perform conversion therapy for compensation. The council and mayor agreed to pass the limited ban and consider amendments in the future.
Twenty states and more than 70 jurisdictions across the United States have banned conversion therapy. Equality Kansas hopes that the local bans will lead to county bans and eventually a state ban.
These bans are succeeding because local, state, and national activists support each other across organizational lines — and because the voices of conversion therapy survivors are undeniable proof of the need to ban the fraudulent, harmful, and often fatal abuse of LGBTQ youths and young adults.
“In Roeland Park, the city council once again provided historic leadership in standing up for LGBTQ youth,” said Shannon Minter, the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which provides legal support to U.S. states and cities in implementing and defending bans. “In addition to preventing licensed mental health professionals from engaging in this harmful practice, we must also educate religious leaders and faith communities that no matter what their beliefs, pressuring a young person to try to change their sexual orientation or gender identity is extremely damaging. There is no place for conversion therapy in our society.”
Born Perfect is a survivor-led program created by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) in 2014 to end conversion therapy by passing laws across the country that protect LGBTQ children and young people, fighting in courtrooms to ensure their safety, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by these dangerous practices. https://bornperfect.org