Councilman says Cincinnati first in nation to ban sexual orientation conversion

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati became the first city in the nation to ban gender identity and sexual orientation conversion therapy when council passed a new ordinance Wednesday.

Under the city law, anyone who practices conversion therapy on a child within Cincinnati limits will face a daily fine of $200. Conversion therapy is an effort to change the sexual orientation of a person.

City Council passed the measure in a 7-2 vote Monday during a budget committee meeting. The city law went to the council again for a second vote Wednesday.

City Councilman Chris Seelbach called the ordinance the “most personally important piece of legislation” he’s ever drafted and proposed. During Monday’s meeting, he said he was personally subjected to those therapy efforts 20 years ago.

“Your whole world is turned upside down,” Seelbach said of the impact of conversion therapy.

Seelbach said Monday that conversion therapy is “very active” in Cincinnati and he hears Cincinnati kids who have undergone the therapy during advocacy group meetings.

Seelbach also referenced the suicide of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender girl from a Cincinnati suburb who took her life last year. Alcorn wrote about her experience with conversion therapy in a suicide note she left on a personal blog. 

Two Cincinnati council members – Charlie Winburn and Amy Murray – both voted against the ordinance. Murray said she heard “heartfelt stories” from people who asked council to continue to allow conversion therapy in the city.

“A lot of people have been to council and said, ‘Please don’t take this away,’” Murray said.

Ohio lawmakers have proposed efforts to ban conversion therapy at the state level but those have stalled.  

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