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Ban Conversion Therapy Locally

Editor, News-Register:

On Nov. 16, 2021, I spoke before the Wheeling City Council and called upon them to ban the practice of conversion therapy.

Since then, the cause has received Valley-wide attention, both positive and negative.

Conversion therapy, for those reading who have no prior knowledge of this issue, is any attempt to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Making the practice of conversion therapy, also referred to as reparative therapy, illegal in Wheeling would not only be protecting LGBTQ youth, but also protecting human rights amongst one of the most vulnerable communities in our area, and in the entire country.

One voice opposed to the ban has said that conversion therapy “is not an LGBTQ issue or a human rights issue … It is actually an attack on Christianity.”

I respect everyone’s opinion and am more than willing to sit down and talk to them about this issue. However, to say that forcing a child out of being gay, bisexual, lesbian, or transgender is not an LGBTQ issue is entirely false.

It is not only utterly false, but incredibly disrespectful to the hundreds of thousands of individuals forced into this disgraced so-called “therapy”.

Our constitution was intended to grant a number of rights and liberties, such as the right to free speech, the right to vote, as well as the right to religious freedom. Currently, these rights do not apply to all citizens and groups.

The constitution grants all citizens the right to practice whatever religion they wish; however, religious freedom does not give any individual the right to force their religion upon another person. The vast majority of children forced into conversion therapy at a young age do not have the same religious views as their parents or guardians, so why should they be forced to follow something they do not believe and change who they are?

Conversion therapy has been disproven and denounced by countless number of groups, consisting of licensed medical professionals, human rights activists, LGBTQ rights activists, as well as legal scholars. The Human Rights Campaign, which is the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group and represents millions of licensed medical and mental health care professionals, educators, and advocates, is strongly opposed to the disproven “treatment.” The largest professional and scientific organization of psychologists in the U.S., the American Psychological Association, is also opposed to conversion therapy. In a recent publication with data provided by 13 other professional groups and organizations, the APA states that “No data demonstrate that reparative or conversion therapies are effective, and in fact they may be harmful.” I reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia for a comment and Mollie Kennedy, community outreach director, said “… preventing mental health professionals from engaging in this practice in a clinical setting is important and Constitutional. This isn’t about restricting religious freedom, but about preventing the use of a practice in clinical settings that is at best ineffective, and at worst harmful and even deadly.”

One individual against the ban on conversion therapy stated to Wheeling City Council that “We have a justice system to judge these issues on a case-by-case basis according to the surrounding circumstances.”

While I agree with the intent of that statement, there is no law, rule, or regulation even mentioning conversion therapy: there is currently nothing for our “justice system to judge these issues on” in our area. If Wheeling City Council decides to ban the practice of conversion therapy, then our justice system will finally be able to judge these issues. If Council does indeed enforce a ban on the practice of conversion therapy in The Friendly City, then they will be saving a countless number of young people from a lifetime of trauma, as well as protecting the future generation of Americans from this horrid “therapy.”

Braden Beckett

Shadyside

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