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Independence banned conversion therapy for LGBTQ minors, and Blue Springs may be next

Rainbow flag blowing in a backyard.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The City of Independence joined four other metro cites to ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth through a vote during its city council meeting Monday.

The city of Independence voted unanimously on Monday to ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ minors, becoming the fifth city in the area to do so. A Blue Springs council member says he's ready to introduce a similar ordinance.

The city of Independence has become the fifth in the Kansas City area to ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth.

On Monday night, Mayor Eileen Weir cast the final ballot, with all six members of the council approving the measure. Under the ordinance, any provider who is charged with performing conversion therapy on minors could be fined up to $500.

The ordinance defines a “provider” as any licensed health or medical professional, such as a counselor or therapist.

Independence City Prosecutor Mitchell Langford said during Monday’s meeting that the ordinance has no exemption for churches. But someone who is acting in a pastoral capacity may still consult or communicate with a minor, as long as that person is not actively trying to convert them.

“It depends on how you define ‘provider,’” Langford said. “If they are acting in the capacity as a provider as defined by the ordinance, then they can be prosecuted.”

Conversion therapy — the widely-discredited practice of attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity — has already been banned in Kansas City, North Kansas City, Prairie Village, and Roeland Park.

Rev. Sally Haynes, a supporter of LGBTQ rights who lives in Blue Springs, says she is encouraged by Independence’s ban. She hopes her eastern Jackson County city will be the next to outlaw the practice.

“I was very impressed that Independence was able to do that,” Haynes said. “Since we are adjacent to Independence, I’m hopeful that maybe that will keep spreading our direction now."

In her ministry, Haynes says that she’s spoken with survivors of conversion therapy.

“It just does irreparable harm to people,” she said. “I would hate to see Blue Springs become a refuge for people who are offering this harmful therapy."

Blue Springs City Council member Galen Ericson says he’s prepared an ordinance banning conversion therapy, but needs one more council member to join him before he can present the proposal for discussion.

Ericson says the language in his ordinance is similar to the one in Independence.

“I think it should be passed all across the nation,” he said.

Ericson said he believes it’s important for Missouri municipalities to ban conversion therapy because the state won’t — a point echoed by Langford during Monday’s Independence City Council meeting.

“It’s a good ordinance to have,” Langford said, “because you’re not going to get the state of Missouri to pass anything like this anytime soon.”

As KCUR’s general assignment reporter and visual journalist, I bring our audience inside the daily stories that matter most to the people of the Kansas City metro, showing how and why events affect residents. Through my photography, I seek to ensure our diverse community sees itself represented in our coverage. Email me at carlos@kcur.org.
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