Conversion therapy survivors cheered Thursday night as Louisville Metro Council voted 24 to 1 to approve an ordinance banning conversion therapy.
Kentucky’s largest city became the second city in Kentucky, after Covington, to ban the harmful practice. The ordinance prohibits licensed mental-health providers from using sexual orientation or gender identity change efforts with minors. It also prevents provision of public funds to any entity that provides “conversion therapy” to a minor.
Separate bipartisan legislation is pending to ban conversion therapy statewide.
During committee proceedings last week, Councilman Bill Hollander said the ban was necessary because conversion therapy causes increased rates of depression, substance abuse, and suicide. “In this National Suicide Prevention Month, surely we can agree to join states and cities across the country in banning a practice that doesn’t work and leads to higher suicide rates for children,” Hollander said.
The campaign to ban conversion therapy was led by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, the Fairness Campaign, and the survivor-led group Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky (BCTK). BCTK in particular has achieved phenomenal success in uniting conservative Kentuckians in support of protecting LGBTQ youth.
Kentucky Survivors Show Leadership
“We are encouraged that Kentucky’s largest and most diverse city stepped up in a bipartisan way to protect Kentucky’s kids, said Tanner Mobley, executive director of BCTK. “It is our hope, a hope shared by thousands of Kentuckians from every corner and holler in our state, that our state legislature will do the same in passing the Youth Mental Health Protection Act during the 2021 Session and protect every Kentucky family by finally putting an end to these torturous and fraudulent practices for good.”
State Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, a Republican from Fayette, is the primary sponsor of the state senate bill. Kerr said, “In my Christian faith, I am taught that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made, wonderfully made, and I believe that very strongly. Pro-life means doing everything I can to protect our youth from suicide and from being rejected and being taught that they are not good enough. I’m inspired by this win in Louisville and feel hopeful that we can ban these torturous practices state-wide in 2021.”
“With so much strife in our community, so much pain in our city, tonight our Metro Council took a bold step toward love and compassion by banning the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion ‘therapy.’ This move by Kentucky’s largest and most diverse city is an important step toward a much-needed state-wide ban to protect young people across the Commonwealth,” stated Rep. Lisa Willner, D-Jefferson.
Youth Deserve Protection
Louisville councilman-elect Jecorey Arthur also spoke in support of the bill via Instagram.
“We need to ban conversion therapy,” Arthur said. “And today Louisville Metro Council is voting to do just that…Louisville needs to catch up. Because our youth not only deserve to live. But they deserve to be, and be with, who they love.”
Survivors Offer Support from Across the Nation
“We’re grateful to the Louisville Metro Council,” said Mathew Shurka, conversion therapy survivor and co-founder of Born Perfect, the national survivor-led campaign to ban conversion therapy. “Their vote sends a powerful message to every child that they are born perfect.” Shurka reflected on the experiences of survivors which have necessitated such bans.
“As a survivor of conversion therapy, I know first-hand that attempts by a therapist to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity result in serious, lasting harms. Like many other young people, I believed the professional therapists who told me I could change my sexual orientation and become straight. But after five years of doing everything I could to change, I was plunged into depression and despair upon realizing that these ‘therapies’ were bogus and that I could not change.”
Recovery from Conversion Therapy Can Take Years
“I will never be able to recover the time that I spent in this bogus therapy,” Shurka said. “It prevented me for years from living as my true self and robbed me of years that I will never regain. Conversion therapy also nearly destroyed my family. It drove a wedge between me and my parents and siblings, based on my therapists’ false assertion that being gay is caused by problems or deficiencies in parenting.”
There is absolutely no scientific basis for that assertion, which underlies almost all conversion therapy.
“The Louisville Metro Council is showing much-needed courage and leadership in standing up for LGBTQ youth. Hate-based groups in Northern Kentucky have waged vicious attacks and promoted dangerous lies and misinformation about LGBTQ people,” said Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which provides legal support to U.S. states and cities in implementing and defending conversion therapy bans. “Contrary to the false messages of these groups, being LGBTQ is a natural part of the spectrum of human identity. All children deserve love and support, not shame, and Louisville is doing the right thing in protecting people from so-called ‘conversion therapy.’”
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Born Perfect is the leading campaign to end conversion therapy. We are survivors, lawyers, and policy experts working together to protect LGBTQ+ people nationally and around the globe. Born Perfect is a program of National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).