An ordinance to ban conversion therapy passed 3-2 in the Sept. 10 East Lansing City Council meeting, sparking controversy along the way.
Council member Aaron Stephens said he hoped the ordinance introduced would pass and refuted passing a resolution without the ability to enforce violations.
“I feel like we have a duty to protect LGBTQ,” he said.
The ordinance denounces conversion therapy, or the practice of changing an individuals sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual using psychological or spiritual interventions.
“I had spoken with council member Stephens about the ordinance and I really wanted to come and speak in favor of it,” Michigan State alumnus Colin Wiebrecht said. “I was really involved with LGBTQ groups on campus and I think that conversion therapy is something that doesn’t get a lot of attention.”
Council members Aaron Stephens, Mark Meadows and Shanna Draheim voted in favor of the ordinance. Ruth Beier and Erik Altmann voted against it, preferring a softer regulation with the intention of avoiding bad faith lawsuits.
Some have concerns about this ordinance given that it could become a freedom of speech issue, including associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine, Steven Roskos, MD.
“I am disappointed in their decision, I fully support banning abuse of people, patients and clients but I think that this could limit some minors from getting therapy that they need,” Roskos said. “I think it's defined too broadly.”
During the meeting several amendments were passed to change the language making it illegal if the therapy is done against the will of the person.
The practice is not illegal if the person is doing it willingly. It was also changed from a civil defense to a misdemeanor which will allow police to investigate.
“I think it’s always worth the risk for equality,” Stephens said. “I think that we mitigated a lot of those risks today, obviously the interactions with the city attorney yielded so. And if there are mitigating factors that we need to address later on, amendments can be made to that ordinance.”