City Council passes ban on gay conversion therapy in Seattle

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Trans Pride 2016 marches through Capitol Hill. (Image: CHS)

Seattle City Council members unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that will outlaw so-called conversion therapy — a discredited practice that seeks to make LGBTQ people straight or change a person’s gender identity trough a variety of methods.

The measure prohibits anyone in Seattle who provides conversion therapy from providing that service to a minor. Anyone found to be in violation of this ordinance will be fined $500 for the first citation and $1,000 for every following citation.

“Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer or transgender is not an illness, nor is it something that needs a cure,” said the bill’s sponsor, City Council member Lorena Gonzalez. The bill was the first the at-large rep drafted and saw through to a vote since taking office this year.

Seattle will become the third U.S. city to outlaw conversion therapy once it is signed by Mayor Ed Murray, Seattle’s first openly-gay mayor. Several states also ban the practice. Conversion therapy, or reparative therapy, is opposed by the American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, and the Human Rights Campaign, among others.

As a civil rights attorney, Gonzalez said she was proud to have the conversation therapy ban has her first ordinance that she created and shepherded into law. Gonzalez said she was interested in seeing a statewide ban as well.

The Seattle Office for Civil Rights will enforce the measure and work to educate therapists and the public on the new law.

During the City Council’s public comment period, one woman said she attended conversion therapy sessions for years to “un-gay” her self, which was encouraged by her conservative church. “All it really did was create shame within me,” she said.

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4 thoughts on “City Council passes ban on gay conversion therapy in Seattle

  1. I’m really glad the City Council passed this legislation, but am concerned about how effective the enforcement will be. For example, if a gay person is seeing a church-based therapist for conversion therapy (where those counseling sessions are protected by privacy laws) how is that going to be detected and dealt with?

  2. This needs to be banned nationally. Banning in Seattle is great but folks can drive one town over for “therapy”. I hope this is a first step and bringing attention to this horrible practice and banning becomes widespread.

  3. Not that I agree with this kind of therapy, but what if people choose to do this of their own volition? Are they not being denied freedom of choice?

    • Then this person should seek counseling to understand their issues.

      Conversion therapy is often sought by parents who don’t want gay kids. It doesn’t work, it can be permanently destructive and is a driver in LGBTQ youth suicides.