LGBTQ Conversion Therapy Ban to Be Debated at City Council Tonight

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019, 1:24 pm
Alice Dreger

Tonight’s East Lansing City Council agenda has only two major items listed on it, but both are likely to be contentious. The two items include a possible rezoning of properties along Evergreen Avenue, and a proposal to outlaw “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ youth in the City limits.

The conversion therapy issue will bring debate among members of Council not because any Council members are against the idea of protecting LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and queer) youth. Rather, the question will be whether Council should go with an attempt to outlaw the practice, or simply pass a resolution condemning it.

ELi reported back in July on Council member Aaron Stephens’ interest in drafting an ordinance aimed at banning “attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation” and any attempts to change a person’s gender identity, “including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions.”

At that time, Stephens said he was unaware of any such practices occurring in the City limits and consequently he doubted the City would become embroiled in a lawsuit over the ordinance, if it passed.

But questions remained about the wording of the draft ordinance, the impact it could have on young people, and whether the City might end up in a lawsuit as costly as that brought by Country Mill over City leaders’ decisions regarding farmers’ market policy after one vendor said he would not host same-gender weddings on his Charlotte farm.

Now tonight’s agenda is showing not just the ordinance drafted by City Attorney Tom Yeadon at the request of Stephens, but also a draft Council resolution Stephens tells us was put forth by Council member Ruth Beier.

What’s the difference?

Like the draft ordinance, the resolution expresses support for LGBTQ people and condemns “conversion therapy.”

But the resolution does not outlaw anything. It consequently raises fewer legal questions and almost no legal risk.

Asked for comment tonight about the issue of law versus resolution, Stephens responded, “Conversion therapy is an unethical and dangerous practice for minors. It should never be allowed within the city.”

He added, “I introduced this to continue the fight on the state level and [to] protect our LGBTQ minors within the city. This is an important step in the continued fight for equality.”

We did not reach Ruth Beier for comment. Beier is the only member of Council who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community.

How you can weigh in:

If you want to weigh in on this subject, you can write to City Council via email or speak in person at the meeting, which is generally more effective. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, Sept. 10, in the second-floor courtroom of City Hall. You can speak during the “public comment” section at the beginning of the meeting.


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