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City of Appleton bans conversion therapy for minors

Green highway sign for the Wisconsin city of Appleton, county seat of Outagamie County

APPLETON, Wis.  — The Appleton Common Council voted 14-1 late Wednesday to ban conversion therapy for minors in Appleton, according to WLUK.

You can find the original resolution here, and an amendment here.

The vote came after nearly three hours of public comment from both sides. More than 90 community members were in attendance.

The ban “prohibits any licensed medical or mental health professional from engaging in conversion therapy with any person under 18 years of age,” according to the amended resolution.

Vered Meltzer is one of the Appleton alders who submitted the resolution.

“It’s therapy that seeks to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” Meltzer, an alderperson for district 2, said.

More specifically, the resolution defines “conversion therapy” as:

Any practices or treatments offered or rendered to consumers for a fee, including psychological counseling, that seeks to change a persons’ sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender. “Conversion therapy” does not include counseling that provides assistance to a person undergoing gender transition, or counseling that provides acceptance, support, and understanding of a person or facilitates a person’s coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices, as long as such counseling does not seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Spencer Jay, an LGBTQ activist, supports the ban.

Jay says he spent three months in conversion therapy outside of Appleton, and has had friends die from suicide because of their own conversion therapies.

“I also have been subjected to more years of PTSD and I’m still struggling with it. I’m still struggling with it every day and I miss them so much,” Jay said.

Cheryl Marciniak is against the ban.

She says conversion therapy helped her end same-sex attraction that came from childhood sexual abuse.

“A direct link was made to my experience of sexual trauma in my youth being the root of my previous struggle of same-sex attraction. It seems fair to say that no one truly has a handle on all the science in this area,” Marciniak said during public comment.

Under the ban, anyone alleged to be practicing conversion therapy would be referred to the State of Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services.

The city originally proposed a $1,000 fine for violations. That is no longer part of the resolution.

City leaders say ordinance language still needs to be drafted, so it could be several weeks until the ordinance takes effect.

Matthew Reed, district 8, was the one alderperson who voted against the conversion therapy ban.

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