The city of Columbia is officially supporting a state bill that, if passed, will ban the controversial practice of conversion therapy on minors.
After a unanimous vote by the Columbia City Council at its regular meeting Monday, the city will support the Youth Mental Health Preservation Act, or HB 516, which would ban Missouri health professionals from performing conversion therapy on anybody under the age of 18. The bill was introduced to the House on Jan. 9.
The vote holds no legislative power on its own, but it does require the city manager to communicate the city’s support to state legislators, according to the resolution on the Council’s agenda.
According to the bill, conversion therapy involves any practice that attempts to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of an individual. The bill states that conversion therapy does not include any counseling given to help with identity exploration or development.
The American Psychiatric Association since 1998 has publicly opposed psychiatric treatment, such as conversion therapy, that is based on the assumption that same-sex orientation is a mental disorder.
Mayor Brian Treece requested the resolution that would support HB 516 at the Feb. 4 council meeting. He said Monday the resolution received strong support from the Columbia community.
“Columbia has always been a leader when it comes to nondiscrimination and pro-equality ordinances,” Treece said.
MU sophomore Dayan Reynolds spoke in support of the resolution at the meeting. Reynolds said that growing up in southwest Missouri, conversion therapy is commonly accepted. Reynolds’ father is a conversion therapist, and Reynolds said he had practiced on dozens of children.
“I simply lived with him for two years while being out, and I ended up developing a mental disorder after I left, and I haven’t been able to go back to that house,” Reynolds said.
In addition to supporting the Council’s approval of the bill, Reynolds also advocated for a city-wide ban on conversion therapy.
Fifteen states and Washington, D.C., currently ban the use of conversion therapy, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
According to a statement from Columbia’s Commission on Human Rights, no cities in Missouri currently have a ban on conversion therapy of minors. On Feb. 5, the commission unanimously voted to draft legislation recommending that Columbia adopt a law making conversion therapy on minors by licensed professionals a class A misdemeanor.
The commission brought its proposal in front of the City Council at Monday’s meeting, where it was introduced under reports for Council comment.
Supervising editor is Kaleigh Feldkamp.