The city of West Lafayette in Indiana is currently facing a dilemma on whether or not to outlaw "conversion therapy."
There were a few intense discussions at the West Lafayette City Council meeting on whether or not conversion therapy should be banned.
Supporters argued “conversion therapies” are harmful and should be banned. They emphasize that these so-called “conversion treatments” to try to “change” a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity aren’t just ineffective, but also abusive towards LGBTQ+ people. They argued it is necessary to protect the LGBTQ+ community, especially youth.
Queer councilmember Shannon Kang
“Until all of our vulnerable populations in the city are protected we cannot stand by… and say that we’ve done enough,” queer councilmember Shannon Kang said. “This is extremely important to me.”
“Ordinances and resolutions like this are intended to change the culture,” she added. “I’m not asking that these people, who do it, would convert, but it sends a message into what sort of community they are living in, and it sends a message to our vulnerable communities as well.”
The opposition was not left out, as Pastor Josh Greiner from Faith West Community Ministries welcomed the postponement and called for religious liberty.
“Obviously, there are concerns with the ordinance. With parent rights, with rights of individuals and with religious liberties at stake,” he said. “What would be better is if either they dropped the ordinance altogether or if they were willing to amend it to include clear language to exempt religious organizations.”
The ordinance to ban “conversion therapy” met with some resistance from council members, who struggled to define it. Some believe the language of the ordinance is too vague and open to abuse, which made them unsure how it would be applied.
For example, they wonder if this practice should be prohibited to licensed practitioners only and also unlicensed persons?
“When does guidance turn into behavior modification? I’m not in a position to be able to assess that,” West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis said. “The one thing I do know for sure is, if someone is reaching out for help and they go to their pastor, teacher, or somebody in a position of authority, the intent of the (person reaching out) is to get advice. And if somebody abuses that, then there is definitely an action that needs to take place.”
He added: “We are getting into areas in some cases that might breach the relationship between a child and its parent, a pastor and its constituent. I’m not sanctioning any kind of abuse of a child, but I just think passing any legislation… that is somewhat vague does present problems. Specifically with enforcement.”
Councilmember David Sanders (Purdue University photo/Rebecca Wilcox)
The ordinance “does not outlaw speech, counseling, discussions, or advice,” Councilmember David Sanders, who introduced the ordinance, said. “None of that is actually in the ordinance. What it talks about are practices or treatments. These are technical terms for what is actually used in 'conversion therapy'. It is not about discussions or teaching, all these things people said they had concerns about. That’s not what the ordinance says.”
The vote on the “conversion therapy” ban is expected to take place during January 2022. Let’s hope it won’t be rejected.
The West Lafayette City Council meeting on the banning of “conversion therapy” led to a lot of questions. The intention to ban this practice is there, but some members of the city council and Mayor Dennis do not realize how harmful “conversion therapies” can be on individuals. I can’t help but feel that they are more concerned about penalizing some than protecting others.