City of La Crosse considering ban of conversion therapy

La Crosse City Council Chambers
La Crosse City Council Chambers(WEAU)
Published: Jun. 2, 2022 at 5:10 PM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - La Crosse may soon join more than a dozen other Wisconsin municipalities in banning a controversial therapy method.

Conversion therapy is described as any attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, which is a practice most often targeted at young people who identify as LGBTQ+.

Practitioners of conversion therapy try to convert a person into becoming a heterosexual through methods such as talk therapy, hypnosis, and aversion therapy.

Alesha Schandelmeier with the 7 Rivers LGBTQ Connection in La Crosse says conversion therapy has been widely rejected by medical professionals due to its harmful after effects.

“It can be very physically, mentally, and emotionally damaging, especially when youth are involved,” Schandelmeier expressed.

While Schandelmeier hasn’t heard any official word of conversion therapy taking place in La Crosse, that doesn’t mean it’s not being practiced in some form or fashion.

“I have heard rumblings of organizations that may be providing those types of counseling, but a lot of times due to the fact that it’s so widely discredited, people will kind of twist the words and call it different things,” Schandelmeier said.

To discourage conversion therapy, the City of La Crosse is considering an ordinance which would ban the method altogether.

The matter was put forward by City Council Member Mac Kiel, who says the legislation would be a preventative measure.

“A ban like this would give the youth a way to speak out if this might be happening to them,” Kiel explained.

Under the ordinance, it would be unlawful for any person to practice conversion therapy with anyone under the age of 18.

Kiel believes passing the measure would be a show of solidarity from City officials to youth who identify as LGBTQ+.

“We talk a lot about how we are an inclusive and equitable community, so putting our actions where our words are I think is very important to show that we truly want that, we truly want them to be safe here,” Kiel said.

The Judiciary & Administration Committee passed the ordinance by a vote of 5-1, and the matter will next go before the City Council on June 9.

Dozens of support letters from the community were submitted with the ordinance, and organizations such as YWCA La Crosse and the School District of La Crosse are also in favor of the measure.

20 states have banned conversion therapy since 2013, and 13 Wisconsin municipalities have done the same since 2018.

Milwaukee, Madison, Eau Claire, Cudahy, Shorewood, Racine, Sheboygan, Superior, Glendale, Appleton, West Allis, Kenosha, and Sun Prairie have all prohibited the practice.

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