City of Eau Claire bans conversion therapy

Eau Claire city council votes unanimously to ban conversion therapy

More stories from Julia Van Allen

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Conversion therapy, the practice that claims to have the cure for being LGBTQ, is on the hot seat in today’s cultural landscape. Its controversial nature steeps the conversation in a particularly potent mix of religion, politics and human rights. The problematic trend of conversion therapy has been put to a stop in Eau Claire after the unanimous vote banning the practice Oct. 9.

The Eau Claire City Council began discussing this matter in August, weighing the concerns of parents not wanting to lose what they felt was a parental right and evidence from national statistics and psychologists. This debate was not for the faint of heart, as it dealt with the problematic intersection of religious and human rights.

Conversion therapy is meant to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s based on the belief that same-sex attractions are a sin or disease one needs to be rid of. Conversion therapy often combines pseudoscientific practices and psychotherapy in an attempt to “fix” the subject’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Conversion therapy is centered on the perception that being LGBTQ is a choice that needs to be corrected. Historically, conversion therapies have included electroconvulsive shocks, lobotomies, invasive surgeries, castration, aversion therapy and religion-based psychological treatments.

I feel it’s needed to discuss the “success” rate of these conversion therapies. Although many groups who conduct conversion therapy today claim to have high success rates, national data says otherwise. In a study done by the Williams Institute, nearly 700,000 Americans have gone through conversion therapy. Of these, nearly 700,000, the percentage of people where this debunked practice ended with a “successful” outcome is slim to none.

Conversion therapy has been completely debunked, exposed as a process that does more to harm, physically and mentally, to the very people it’s supposed to “cure.”

The reason why Eau Claire’s passing of a ban on conversion therapy is so noteworthy is due to the law of the land in Wisconsin itself. Conversion therapy is still legal in the state of Wisconsin, as it is in 41 other states.

Yes, that’s right. Only 9 states in this freedom-loving country have banned a practice that has been discredited by the American Psychiatric Association — and Wisconsin isn’t one of them.

When the Eau Claire city council announced that they would be making a decision regarding conversion therapy, the controversy began. There were people for and against the ban. Many of those who were against the ban were parents concerned with their rights as parents to choose for their children were being impinged on. Others against the ban said it restricted their freedom of religion.

The city council was adamant about this issue not being about taking away people’s rights or freedom of religion. It’s about protecting the kids.

Conversion therapy programs all too often involve forms of physical, psychological and sexual abuse. This does not mean that all programs include these acts, but it is common.

Even with all of the controversy, the Eau Claire City Council passed the ban unanimously, taking a clear stance on the matter. Eau Claire is just the third city in Wisconsin to have banned conversion therapy, trailing behind Milwaukee and Madison.

Van Allen can be reached at [email protected]