DULUTH, MN -- Duluth became the second city in Minnesota to ban conversion therapy Monday night.

The therapy is meant to change a person's sexual orientation using psychological or spiritual intervention, but studies have shown conversion therapy is ineffective.

Ahead of Monday's city council meeting, a Minneapolis activist group, Outfront Minnesota, spearheaded a rally at city hall showing support for a ban.

Most city councilors and Mayor Emily Larson were in attendance.

Many from that group and others spoke out at the meeting, and there were some differences of opinion.

Dan Walch expressed strong disapproval of the ban saying, "The council's ban violates the first amendment rights of free speech and freedom of religion for adults, families, and mental health councilors."

In the language of the ordinance, it states churches would be exempt, but any licensed medical professionals found performing the therapy would be fined.

For some on Monday, the ban hit home.

"This attempt at conversion therapy was the biggest mistake of my life. Here's the takeaway. Please be aware psychological and spiritual from conversion therapy even now occurs in faith-based communities," says Mark Kirschieper, who underwent a year of conversion therapy.

Some argued there should be a separation between church and state, while others say they are one and the same.

"It's a preliminary step to outlawing a surrender to Jesus Christ's lifestyle, and if that's part of your agenda, then it's an evilest agenda," says Bert Bardt, who also opposes the ban.

Councilors and community members alike stressing the ordinance is to protect and show support for youth struggling with their sexualities.

Councilor Gary Anderson, who co-authored the ordinance, spoke out as a "proud gay man" and says "I believe that this ordinance is a good faith effort [no pun intended] to support our youth whether they are heterosexual, LBGTQ, or just not knowing where they are on the spectrum of orientation and identity."

Kathy Hermes, who has extensively worked with members of the LGBTQ+ community says, "LGBTQ+ kids want to and deserve to be safe and physically, psychologically, mentally, and spiritually."

The vote passed 8-0 with Councilor Jay Fosle absent.

Councilor Zack Filipovich says, "This is no a brainer it's the right thing to do for our community."

Councilors hope this local legislation will encourage a statewide ban that was rejected in the legislature this past session.

Minneapolis and Superior passed similar legislation earlier this year.

- Jessie Slater

Source: https://kbjr6.com/2019/12/16/duluth-city-council-votes-to-ban-conversion-therapy/