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Jackson County Legislature may vote to ban anti-gay 'conversion therapy' on minors

Before the repeal, Arizona was one of <a href="https://www.glsen.org/learn/policy/issues/nopromohomo">at least seven states</a> with curriculum laws around LGBTQ issues.
Zelda Gardner
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'Conversion therapy' refers to a range of discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. According to the Trevor Project, 17% of LGBTQ youth reported being threatened with or subjected to 'conversion therapy' in 2022.

While it’s already illegal for health care providers to practice "conversion therapy" on minors in Kansas City and Independence, Ordinance 5711 would make it against the law across all of Jackson County. It’d also make it easier for survivors to seek justice by providing a clear way to report abuse.

The Jackson County Legislature’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee voted on Thursday night in favor of an ordinance that seeks to ban "conversion therapy" on minors. The vote was cast after a public hearing where lawmakers heard from community organizations, faith leaders and local residents.

Ordinance 5711 defines conversion therapy as "a range of practices aimed at changing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity." The discredited practice has been banned in 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

The ordinance would make it illegal to practice conversion therapy on minors in Jackson County, and would fine violators $500. It would also ban the organizations they work for from receiving county funding.

1st District Legislator Manny Abarca IV chairs the committee, and told Up To Date’s Steve Kraske on Friday that this ordinance goes beyond existing bans in the county, including in Kansas City and Independence.

“Where the two bans currently stand, there weren't procedures put in place for survivors to actually seek justice. This ordinance spent a lot of time focused on the process for survivors to submit the violations and for a penalty to be levied on them,” Abarca said.

In Missouri, the likelihood of getting a statewide ban passed into law is slim due to Republican control of the government. Abarca said the future of Ordinance 5711 is dependent on how well he and supporters of the ban can sell it to his fellow legislators.

“I think this is a good litmus test to see where we're going with the legislature as a whole,” he said. “This is an extremely progressive piece of legislation, and it’s incumbent upon us to go back and re-educate our colleagues.”

Legislators will vote on the ordinance on Monday, March 20 at 3 p.m. Abarca said they’ll be taking public comment up until the vote is cast.

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
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