Madison became the second city in Wisconsin to ban the discredited practice of conversion therapy following a unanimous vote from its city council.
Known as the Madison Common Council, the policy-making body passed an ordinance on Tuesday prohibiting any attempt to “cure” the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ youth. Counselors and mental health care providers caught offering conversion therapy face a penalty of more than $500 but no more than $1,000.
Although the 20 aldermen who sit on the Madison Common Council noted there had been no reports of reparative treatments being offered in Wisconsin’s capital city, they argued that banning the practice amounts to a statement of core values.
Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, who co-sponsored the ordinance, said the policy makes it “clear that this kind of practice is really unacceptable.”
Austin Kieler, chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s LGBTQ Caucus, agreed.
He told the council this week that the effort is about “protecting our LGBTQ youth and sending a clear message to many in Madison, the state of Wisconsin and beyond that their identity is valid and they are loved.”
“LGBTQ youth are far more likely to suffer from mental health issues, engage in drug abuse, and have significantly higher rates of suicide than their straight or cisgender peers,” Kieler told the 20-member body. “Subjecting LGBTQ youth to the trauma and emotional abuse that is at the core of conversion therapy only aggravates these issues and costs them their lives.”
Milwaukee became the first municipality in the Badger State to outlaw conversion therapy earlier this year, following a 12 to 2 vote. Arvina Martin, another co-sponsor of the ordinance, claimed the Madison Common Council was inspired by that vote to take further action protecting LGBTQ youth from harm.
“When Milwaukee passed theirs it really prompted a few of us to just say, ‘Hey … Milwaukee just did it, we should do the same,” Martin told Wisconsin Public Radio.
Conversion therapy has been condemned as dangerous and ineffective by every leading medical association and mental health group in the U.S., including the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, and American Medical Association. Survivors experience extremely high rates of suicidal ideation, depression, and anxiety as a result.
LGBTQ advocates applauded the move as another step toward banning the practice nationwide in a year which has seen states like New Hampshire and Maryland pass legislation outlawing conversion therapy.
“No child should be subjected to abuse–and that’s exactly what this dangerous, discredited practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ really is,” claimed Human Rights Campaign Wisconsin State Director Wendy Strout in a statement, adding that the ordinance has the potential to “fuel the momentum we are seeing nationwide as lawmakers work to pass legislation protecting LGBTQ youth.”
In addition to the 13 states which have banned reparative treatments at the statewide level, more than 40 localities have passed their own ordinances banning conversion therapy. These include cities and counties in Arizona, Florida, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington.
Martin told Wisconsin’s local NPR affiliate that she hopes Tuesday’s vote will trigger a domino effect in the state.
“I hope that soon we’ll be able to say that we’re the first two and not just the only two,” she said. “I think that this gives other municipalities a bit more information and makes the issue a little more solid so that if this is an area of concern where they are, they can address it as well, so hopefully this will lead to more similar bans in other municipalities.”
Although reports indicate that no one spoke out against the conversion therapy ban during the Madison Common Council meetings, actions to outlaw the anti-LGBTQ treatment have been opposed by the Wisconsin Family Council.
After Milwaukee’s vote in March, the right-wing group claimed these ordinances “[rob] parents of the right to make counseling decisions on behalf of their children.”
“I wish this horrible idea would stay in Milwaukee but experience tells me soon other Wisconsin municipalities will be emboldened to put the ordinance on their agendas,” claimed Executive Director Julaine Appling in a press release. “We can only hope citizens are alert, aware, and prepared to stop these ordinances before they gain traction.”
Image via Getty