Independence mayor to continue discussion on conversion therapy after council rejects ban

By Mike Genet
The Examiner

Though the Independence City Council failed earlier this month to approve an ordinance banning conversion therapy, Mayor Eileen Weir wants the conversation to continue. 

Weir has set up a virtual town hall Zoom meeting for 7 p.m. next Thursday. A member of the Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to suicide prevention and crisis intervention with LGBTQ+ youth, will be part of the town hall. 

Weir said that during city leaders’ conversations about the rainbow-colored Pride flag, conversion therapy and adding gender identity and sexual orientation as anti-discrimination protections, the Trevor Project reached out. 

“I asked them if they would be interested in sharing some information with our community and engaging in conversation. They were very eager to participate in that,” Weir said. “They have legal counsel and others that might be able to help us take a look at the ordinance.

Eileen Weir

“It’s not a city-sponsored event; it’s an event I’m hosting. I thought this would be a good educational opportunity for me and for the community, not just on conversion therapy but also suicide prevention. They specifically work with people under the age of 25.” 

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 noted 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 council voted 4-3 against the ban during its July 19 meeting, as some council members said the proposed ordinance, requested by the city’s Human Relations Commission, was too broad or lacked defined enforcement. Also, some believed forced-treatment methods already would be covered under state or federal law.   

But Weir, after some conversations with individual council members, said she believes the proposed ordinance will come back. Indeed, another ban ordinance is on Monday’s council agenda, though not yet for a vote. 

More:Independence updates ordinance with LGBTQ protection

“I clearly want to see this enacted in our city, that’s fairly obvious,” Weir said. “But I don’t want it to be watered down that it doesn’t have any meaning.” 

After the council’s vote, Weir said she doesn’t buy the lack-of-enforcement argument.  

“All of our laws, we expect our citizens to voluntarily comply with them,” Weir said, and if they don’t, then laws have to be place for something to even be reported and investigated, much less prosecuted.

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“When the law’s not on the books,” she said, “we can’t do anything to compel people to comply with them.”  

If the council had approved the ban, Independence would have joined Kansas City, St. Louis, Columbia and most recently North Kansas City, among other cities, with a similar law.

Information to join the virtual meeting next week can be found on Weir’s Twitter feed @weirIndep4 and Facebook mayoral page.