Seeking conversion therapy ban

By Mike Genet
The Examiner

Since a group of members or allies of the LGBTQ+ community implored the Blue Springs City Council earlier this month to ban conversion therapy ban, similar to a request made last year, the council has not taken any action. 

Mayor Carson Ross said he doesn’t believe that will change, though not for lack of empathy. 

“It is not subject the council is willing to bring up,” Ross said, adding that legislation on such a matter should come at the state or federal level. “At the local level it has no enforcement and would just be feel-good legislation.” 

Meanwhile, the Independence City Council is scheduled to vote on such an ordinance Monday. If its council approves the ordinance, Independence would join Kansas City, St. Louis and Columbia, among other cities, in banning the practice. 

Conversion therapy, often aimed at minors, is done with the stated intent of changing a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation. The proposed Independence ordinance notes that the American Academy of Adolescent and Child Psychology has found it lacks scientific validity and can harm young people by contributing to depression and risks for self-harm and suicide. The city’s Human Relations Commission, like in Blue Springs, has encouraged such a ban. 

“I hear them, I’m sympathetic,” Ross said, “but there needs to be some enforcement behind it rather than simply putting something else on books.” 

Scott Casey, a former Blue Springs Planning Commission member and council candidate, told the council at the July 7 meeting the city would be within its rights as a local government to enact such a ban. 

“We’re not calling on the city to regulate parenting decisions or interfere with religious beliefs. It’s regulating a business practice,” he said, like drug or tobacco use or vaping.  

Several other speakers explained the harm and futility of conversion therapy, and warned that many youths in the city could continue to be at risk without such a ban, in one case sharing their personal experience. 

“I wasted so much of my life hating myself,” said Zoe Dunning, who identified themself as queer and transgender, “but no one should ever have to.” 

“I want to see the city of Blue Springs be the best version of itself that it can be,” Shelby Norman said. “Conversion therapy does irreversible damage to members of LGBTQ+ community, especially children and youth.” 

Casey said he has heard back from a couple of council members who sounded supportive of the speakers, but not from a majority. Norman said she and others have not received any response, and they plan to email their full statements to the council members, as the two-minute time limit in place stopped several of them abruptly. 

“We are planning on going back to the council,” she said. 

Norman had addressed the council before they voted to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protections as protections against housing discrimination in the city – a “small win,” she said – but noted that it has no listed enforcement. 

Ross emphasized that no one should be discriminated against and human beings should be treated unfairly, and as a 74-year-old Black man, “I can write a book on discrimination,” but he insisted that city government couldn’t enforce such a measure. 

The council could consider a ban if two members bring it up, he said, but he doesn’t foresee that happening.