ST. LOUS, Mo. —  The St. Louis Board of Aldermen, on Friday, unanimously passed a Resolution in support of legislation in the Missouri General Assembly which would ban so-called "conversion therapy."

  

Conversion therapy, also referred to as "reparative therapy,” “ex-gay therapy,” and “sexual orientation change efforts,” is a widely discredited practice that attempts to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity.

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The Resolution, with leadership from Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia, follows the lead of State Rep. Tracy McCreery (D-88-St. Louis) who filed the Youth Mental Health Preservation Act in the Missouri House of Representatives last month. HB 516 prohibits licensed mental health practitioners from subjecting minors to harmful "conversion therapy" practices.

 

Such practices have been condemned by the American Counseling Association, American Medical Association, and American Psychiatric Association. In 2009, the American Psychological Association (APA) issued a report enumerating the direct risks of conversion therapy to include, among others: depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal, and a distinct rise in suicidality.

 

“Conversion therapy is a dangerous practice that needs to be stopped," said Rep. McCreery. "Laws protecting LGBTQ children from conversion therapy are needed to ensure that practitioners licensed by the State of Missouri are providing competent care and caring for all of our children. Lawmakers should be doing everything in our power to protect children."

 

A 2018 William’s Institute report estimates that 698,000 LGBTQ adults in the United States have received conversion therapy, and 350,000 of these adults received the therapy as adolescents. 

 

“The Board of Aldermen has a responsibility to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the people of St. Louis, especially the physical and psychological well-being of minors, which includes our LGBTQ youth," Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia stated. "Youth who experience family rejection, often in the form of conversion therapy, face especially serious health risks. Supporting a ban on this dangerous practice affirms to our City’s youth -- and the entire LGBTQ community -- that our leadership believes in the value of every person in St. Louis City, just as they are.”

 

Presently there are no cities in Missouri in which conversion therapy is banned for minors. Fourteen states plus D.C. have passed similar legislation, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Several cities in Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania have also banned conversion therapy practices against minors. The William’s Institute report estimates that 6,000 LGBTQ youth would have received conversion therapy had their states not banned the practice. 20,000 LGBTQ youth (ages 13-17) will receive conversion therapy from a licensed healthcare professional before the time they reach 18 in one of the states in which it is not banned, including in Missouri.

 

“Missouri has a strong interest in ensuring that licensed health care providers follow professional standards of competence and do not engage in dangerous practices that have no scientific basis and put young people at risk of severe and long-lasting damage," added Steph Perkins, Executive Director of PROMO, Missouri's statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization.

 

"PROMO applauds the support of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen toward condemning conversion therapy at the state [level]," Perkins continued. "PROMO is working with our partners every single day to ensure our state is doing all we can to protect LGBTQ youth, and we are grateful for the leadership of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.”

 

As to why the St. Louis Board of Aldermen opted for a Resolution of support of HB 516 instead of voting for an all-out ban of conversion therapy across the city, Perkins explained: "Enforcement from the Youth Mental Health Preservation Act comes from regulating state medical licenses. As cities across the country are working to find the best way to ban this harmful practice at a local level, the Board of Aldermen wanted to send a clear message that this harmful practice of conversion therapy is not supported in St. Louis City and to educate parents of LGBTQ kids."

 

In related news, a federal judge, on Wednesday, issued an injunction against Tampa, Florida's conversion therapy ban, ruling it likely violates the free speech rights of conversion therapists.

 

 

 

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