Chalk gay conversion therapy up there with electro-shocking as among the most barbaric mental health practices: Believers consider being gay or transgender a mental illness and therefore "curable." But for at least four years, despite volumes of scientific studies (and pure common sense) that dictates otherwise, the Colorado Legislature has voted against banning licensed health professionals from practicing gay conversion therapy on minors in Colorado.
Today, December 19, a Denver City Council committee will consider such a ban in Denver, the first step before taking a proposal before the full council to change the city's municipal code. (The proposed language uses the phrase "conversion therapy" to be inclusive of transgender individuals.)
There are no known licensed health professionals in Denver who practice conversion therapy. But that's beside the point, according to Denver LGBTQ Commission Chair Arash Jahanian. "Just because we aren't aware of it [happening in Denver] doesn't mean that it's not happening," Jahanian says. "Part of the goal in introducing this bill is to help create awareness about this practice and maybe encourage victims to come forward who may not be doing so already."
Should Denver City Council approve the ban, the Denver Anti-Discrimination Office would be tasked with enforcing it. Victims or their parents could file complaints with the office, which would then investigate. A warning letter would be sent to the provider, then fines would kick in if the practice continues.
If the Colorado Legislature takes up the idea of a statewide ban again, it's very likely to succeed, considering that Democrats will control both houses next session. But Denver wasn't going to wait on state lawmakers again, Jahanian says.
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The city's LGBTQ Commission started researching bans about a year ago and found that a number of cities and states have passed their own, including Seattle, West Hollywood, New York City and several municipalities in Florida. "We did research and modeled, working with the city attorney’s office, a draft ordinance based on what we saw in other cities," Jahanian says. "We really hope this will build momentum to a statewide ban."
He acknowledges that the ban wouldn't impact non-secular practitioners of conversion therapy, but notes that leaders of Denver's religious community will be at today's Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness council committee in support of the ban.
"Denver values itself as a welcoming place for the LGBTQ community and all individuals," Jahanian says. "Denver does want to be a leader in this area. We do want to serve as an example."
The Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness committee will meet in the City and County Building, room 391, at 10 a.m. Wednesday, December 19.