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Jackson County Legislature unanimously passes 'conversion therapy' ban on second try

Rainbow flag blowing in a backyard.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The Jackson County Legislature passed a ban on so-called conversion therapy, enacting the strictest ban in the Kansas City metro.

The metro's strictest restriction of the scientifically discredited practice comes two weeks after the legislature initially failed to pass the ban by a single vote.

The Jackson County Legislature on Monday unanimously approved a ban on so-called conversion therapy for minors, the scientifically discredited practice that seeks to “convert” children and teens to a heterosexual lifestyle or traditional gender roles.

The approval comes two weeks after the ban failed by a single vote, with three legislators abstaining. Jackson County now has the strictest ban in the Kansas City metro. The legislature also approved spending $4,000 to publicize the ban.

The ban establishes a $500 fine for violations but does not include jail time. The ban also prevents organizations who employ people found practicing so-called conversion therapy from receiving any funding from the county.

The law now moves to County Executive Frank White's desk for final approval. White has previously said that he supports banning the practice. It will go into effect immediately with White's signature.

Major medical groups including the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have denounced so-called conversion therapy, saying it’s not only ineffective but actively harmful.

The Jackson County ban defines so-called conversion therapy as a practice or treatment that seeks to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of anyone under 18. The ban also includes practices that intend to change behaviors or gender expressions for minors. It applies to licensed medical and mental health professionals.

Kansas City and Independence have also banned so-called conversion therapy, but Jackson County’s ordinance went a step further by including a process for survivors to hold violators of the ban accountable.

Last year, the American Psychological Association published a statement concluding there is “insufficient evidence” to support the use of so-called conversion therapy. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry also states that so-called conversion therapies lack scientific credibility.

The Jackson County ordinance contains language that so-called conversion therapy does not include “counseling that provides support and assistance to a person undergoing gender transition.” It also includes language recognizing that sexual orientation is not a choice.

At present, 20 states, the District of Columbia and about 100 municipalities have passed laws banning so-called conversion therapy.

Missouri does not have any statewide law banning the practice for minors. Jackson County’s ban on so-called conversion therapy comes as the Missouri legislature is debating several pieces of anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ legislation.

As KCUR’s Missouri politics and government reporter, it’s my job to show how government touches every aspect of our lives. I break down political jargon so people can easily understand policies and how it affects them. My work is people-forward and centered on civic engagement and democracy. I hold political leaders and public officials accountable for the decisions they make and their impact on our communities. Follow me on Twitter @celisa_mia or email me at celisa@kcur.org.
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