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Seattle Bans Conversion Therapy

The Seattle City Council unanimously voted Monday to ban conversion therapy for queer youth, becoming the third American city to independently outlaw the practice.

A giant rainbow flag flies for the first time atop the landmark Space Needle Saturday, June 26, 2010. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A giant rainbow flag flies for the first time atop the landmark Space Needle, June 26, 2010. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Under the new ordinance, mental health providers will be barred from offering or advertising conversion therapy to minors. The practice, which claims to help gay people overcome same-sex attraction, has been widely discredited by mental health professionals and called potentially harmful by the World Psychiatric Association.

Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez introduced the bill in July, calling conversion therapy a “harmful practice that needs to end.”

“Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer or transgender is not an illness, nor is it something that needs a cure,” she said at the time.

Anyone found to be practicing such therapy on people younger than 18 will now be subject to a civil violation carrying penalties of $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for subsequent ones. The city will also spend around $50,000 advertising primarily to LGBT youth to raise awareness that the therapy is now banned, according to KUOW.

Five states and the District of Columbia have banned conversion therapy in recent years, as have Miami and Cincinnati. President Barack Obama also called for an end to the practice last year at the state level, although no plans were announced for any federal legislation.

Seattle City Councilmember Debora Juarez, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, gave an emotional testimony upon the ordinance’s passage, The Stranger reports. She compared the therapy to the plight faced by Native Americans in the early days of the country.

“Conversion therapy is the 20th century or 21st century version of what happened to my people all in the name in assimilation,” she said. “We were forcibly taken from our families, from our children. I am literally one generation removed from that practice.”

“It breaks my heart that we have to pass a law to recognize your humanity,” she added.

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