City bans ‘conversion therapy’ for LGBTQ minors

Commissioner compares it to ‘mental torture,’ ‘child abuse’

COVINGTON, Ky. - Covington took another strong step toward protecting its LGBTQ youth Tuesday night, forbidding the “dangerous and ineffective” practice of so-called conversion therapy for minors - the use of psychological or spiritual interventions in attempts to force a person to change their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

The Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 to write the ban into the City’s Code of Ordinances and create a civil penalty for violating it.
The organization Northern Kentucky Fairness praised Covington as the first in Kentucky to take this stand.
The practice of conversion therapy has been strongly condemned by health-care organizations ranging from the American Psychological Association to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which cite dramatically increased instances of depression and suicide attempts by youth who are subject to the attempts.
In 2018, the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimated that 700,000 LGBTQ adults had undergone conversion therapy, 350,000 of them while under age 18. It described the practice as “treatment grounded in the belief that being LGBT is abnormal.”
City Commission Denny Bowman on Tuesday night likened the practice to “mental torture” and “child abuse” and praised Commissioner Shannon Smith for proposing the ban. Bowman said he grew increasingly troubled while researching the practice in recent weeks.
“It really bothered me,” he said, suggesting the need for a statewide ban.
Smith made a motion that directed the City’s legal staff to draw up the ban during a commission meeting Feb. 11 after she said she read an op-ed in the River City News online newspaper. “This has no place in our society and no place in Covington,” she said.
That motion passed.
The resulting ordinance and the resolution adopted last night confront the issue directly. For example, the resolution says:
“Research demonstrates that sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts can pose critical health risks to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons and contemporary science recognizes that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is part of the natural spectrum of human identity and is not a disease, disorder, or illness.”
Also speaking Tuesday night in favor of the ban was Adam Roland, manager of day treatment and PCC programs at CHNK (Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky) Behavioral Health.
“This is a tremendous step (and) goes a long way toward ensuring the emotional and social safety of LGBTQ families,” Roland said.
Strong commitment
The ban falls in line with the City of Covington’s strong and formal support for the LGBTQ community, which City leaders say is part of Covington’s core values of diversity and inclusivity. 
  • The City last fall scored 94 out of 100 on the national Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, a measure of how well laws, policies, and services treat LGBTQ people who live and work here.
  • Back in 2003, Covington became one of the first Kentucky cities to pass a Human Rights Ordinance that added sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, prohibiting discrimination within the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, resort and amusement. Since then, City leaders have urged other cities in the region to follow its lead.
  • Last year, Covington celebrated the 10th anniversary of NKY Pride with its annual parade and festival. City Hall was also a presenting sponsor of the region’s first-ever NKY Pride Community Awards Celebration.

National experts said Covington’s reputation for diversity in this area make it easier to attract talent, jobs, and investment.

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