City Council considers ordinance banning conversion therapy

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus City Council is considering an ordinance that would ban a controversial form of therapy, often called “conversion therapy,” within city limits.

The therapy encompasses any practice with the goal of changing someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and it would apply to licensed medical professionals performing this type of counseling on people under the age of 18.

Jody Davis, a transgender woman who grew up in Cincinnati, said she went to conversion therapy as a young adult, working with a religious counselor.

“I grew up with a lot of guilt and shame just about who I was and who I thought I might be,” Davis said.

The therapy, Davis said, “wasn’t a positive, accepting environment.”

“It just kind of solidified a lot of feelings of self-hate and, you know, guilt and shame,” Davis said. “It certainly didn’t help me accept who I was at all. It certainly kept me in another decade or so of cycles of self-hatred.”

Davis, who’s now a licensed social worker in Columbus, said that even though her counseling was with a religious counselor and happened when she was an adult, she’s opposed to any type of conversion therapy because of her experience.

On Tuesday evening, Columbus City Council held a public hearing on its ordinance, which would limit and ban conversion therapy by a medical professional to anyone under the age of 18.

“At the end of the day, this is about protecting people for who they are,” said Zach Klein, president of the Columbus City Council.

Opponents of conversion therapy, including many in the medical community, said the practice is not legitimate and cannot change one’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

“There’s not a shred of evidence that shows that’s even possible,” Dr. Jim Broyles, a psychologist, said.

Broyles, who is the former head of the Ohio Psychological Association, said the therapy can be “harmful and damaging” to patients.

“The young person who receives that kind of treatment often walks away from it feeling like they have a sense of failure, with a sense of low self-esteem,” Broyles said. “It can increase suicidal impulses.”

For Jody Davis, this ordinance is a first step to banning the practice.

“Even if this is just for medical professionals, just setting the precedent, it spreads across,” Davis said.

After Tuesday’s public hearing, Klein said the council could make changes to the ordinance or move it forward for the council to vote at a later date.

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