DULUTH – A family physician, a child psychologist and a church ministry worker were among those who spoke at Monday night’s City Council meeting in favor of a proposed ordinance that could make the city the first in Greater Minnesota to ban conversion therapy.
Council Member Gary Anderson, a gay man who married his husband after Minnesota legalized same-sex marriage in 2013, said while conversion therapy is not “an epidemic problem” in Duluth, he brought the proposal forward with Council President Noah Hobbs to offer support and protection to youth.
“Practitioners who use dangerous and discredited practices need to be held accountable. So-called conversion therapy doesn’t work and is harmful to our young people,” Anderson said in the statement released by OutFront Minnesota, a state LGBT advocacy group.
At Monday night’s meeting, Anderson added that he introduced the measure “because of lack of action at the Minnesota state legislature on this exact issue” — a tactic that’s become increasingly common for cities when state lawmakers can’t reach agreements on issues.
A proposed statewide conversion therapy ban failed in the Legislature more than six months ago. Activists are looking to local lawmakers to take up the issue in the hopes that it will pressure state legislators to act.
Opponents to similar bans across the country have argued such ordinances violate freedom of religion or speech or laws that say some states regulate medical practices. Tampa Bay’s conversion therapy ban was challenged in court and struck down.
Duluth’s ban would apply to minors and be enforced through fines, which were not spelled out in the proposed ordinance. Unlike Minneapolis, Duluth’s ordinance would treat the practice like a public nuisance that citizens could report to the police, city clerk or human rights office.
Jamie Conniff, a family medicine physician in Duluth who is gay, says he often works with young LGBT patients, many of whom he says “struggle against the message something’s wrong with them.”
“My patients don’t deserve that,” Conniff said at the council meeting. “They deserve to be loved and they deserve to live in a community that takes proactive steps to ensure that no licensed professional can defraud families and harm young people with a process designed to cure them of who they are.”
After the ordinance’s first reading Monday, the City Council could vote on the measure as soon as Dec. 16.