Early next year, the City of Duluth will ban conversion therapy practices.
The Duluth City Council passed the ban 8-0 Monday night with Councilor Jay Fosle absent. The ordinance takes effect in 30 days.
Councilor Joel Sipress called it a "debunked unethical abuse of practice."
Conversion therapy will be defined in city code as "any practice or treatment by a provider that seeks to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender."
There is a religious exemption for members of the clergy "who are acting in their roles as clergy or pastoral counselors and providing religious counseling to congregants."
Supporters told councilors that conversion therapy is dangerous and can be damaging to someone's mental health. Mark Kirschieper said he went through conversion therapy at his church and tried to live as a heterosexual man.
"I attended group for about a year, becoming sort of a success story or poster boy because I persevered and eventually married my fiance. We were married for three years then divorced," Kirschieper said. "This attempt at conversion therapy was the biggest mistake of my life."
Opponents, however, have worried that it violates First Amendment free speech rights and said that people should be able to choose any kind of therapy. Kristin Walch questioned councilors' motives.
"This is nothing short of taking away the rights of individuals, parents, and discriminating against some at the expense of your own viewpoints," she said. "Are you willing to go down the road of having to defend your decision if you do this, to dispute it in court?"
Minneapolis passed the same ban in November, and Superior passed it in August.
- Baihly Warfield