As Colorado becomes the first state to swear in an openly gay man as governor, Denver also made history this week. The Mile High City became the first municipality in the state to ban anti-LGBTQ conversion therapy.
On Monday, Denver’s City Council unanimously voted to outlaw orientation change efforts from being performed on minors under the age of 18 years old. The city defines conversion therapy as “based on the false claim that being LGBTQ is a mental illness that needs to be cured.”
According to government leaders, the ordinance is “aimed at state-licensed therapists, operating their practice in the city.”
While no known practitioners of conversion therapy are operating within Denver city limits, supporters of the measure believe it’s preemptive. Conversion therapy has been deemed as “ineffective” and “harmful” by every leading U.S. medical and child care group, including Voice for Adoption and the National Association of Social Workers.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock called the ordinance’s passage a “very proud moment for our administration, for members of City Council, and for everyone in Denver who values inclusion and acceptance.”
“Tonight’s vote to ban conversion therapy [is] our city coming together and saying with one voice that we will never allow our LGBTQ youth to be the targets of these dubious practices, and that we are here to support them,” the 49-year-old Democrat claimed in a press release.
“Who they are is something to be celebrated, not maligned, and Denver will always be there to lift up our youth and ensure that they have the opportunity to grow up safe, happy, and healthy,” he added.
Hancock submitted the proposal to a city council committee in December.
At the time, the Denver mayor called reparative therapy efforts “dangerous and immoral,” claiming that his government was “going to make sure that they never happen within [the] city.”
At the time of writing, conversion therapy remains legal at the statewide level in Colorado. Just 14 states (and D.C) have outlawed it. While local municipalities in Florida, New York, and Ohio have taken action to prohibit the practice in their communities, no other cities or counties have done the same in The Centennial State.
Statewide legislation banning “gay cure” treatments has failed in the Colorado Assembly at least four times, facing opposition from conservative lawmakers.
LGBTQ advocates, however, believe 2019 could be different. Control of the State Senate flipped to Democrats in the 2018 midterms, giving them a slim three-vote majority in the upper chambers of the legislature. Democrats currently hold 19 seats, while Republicans boast just 16.
Should a conversion therapy bill head to his desk, Colorado’s new openly LGBTQ governor, Jared Polis, is all but guaranteed to sign it.
The 43-year-old Democrat was sworn in on Tuesday after handily defeating challenger Walker Stapleton by double-digits in the 2018 election. During his inauguration ceremony, Polis said his victory showed “anything is possible in our great state and in our great country.”
Just one other LGBTQ candidate has been elected to a governorship in the U.S.: bisexual Kate Brown, who is currently serving as governor of Oregon.