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City of Norman bans conversion therapy despite no statewide ban

The Norman City Council has officially banned conversion therapy, putting an end to programs that the Human Rights Commission call “dangerous and discredited practices.” The City Council vote for the ordinance was unanimous, with one councilor absent. 

Previously, the Norman City Council considered a ban on using city funding for conversion therapy practiced on minors. However, the Norman Human Rights Commission requested that the Norman City Council ban the practice altogether, with a fine of $750 for those who violate the ordinance. 

Meanwhile, the ordinance does not cover churches or “unlicensed” counseling providers, and only applies to minors under the age of 18. 

Residents voice support

Supporters of the ordinance spoke out in favor of banning conversion therapy. “Good parents don’t let their children be tortured and humiliated and disgraced by other people,” said Laurie Collins, a Norman resident, at the City Council meeting. “Studies show it doesn’t work. At best, it just prevents people from engaging in behavior temporarily.”

Professionals agreed, with Licensed Clinical Social Worker Megan Strong noting, “Banning conversion therapy will literally save lives…Teens who have families who support their sexual or gender identities are less likely to attempt suicide, have depression, PTSD and the list goes on,” she said. 

Detractors believe that the ordinance is an overreach of local government. There is currently no statewide ban on conversion therapy, and Norman City Council-Elect Kelly Lynn (District 3) believes the ordinance will lead to a lawsuit. Another City Council-Elect, Rashad Tortello (District 5) expressed concern that children who share information with a counselor could face trouble. 

Some opposed to the ban

Those opposed to the ban on conversion therapy also believe that it could set a precedent that leads to other bans, such as one on abortion, although the explanation for such a claim was not clear. 

Mathew Shurka, a co-founder of the Born Perfect organization, and a survivor of conversion therapy himself, said that the bill represents an “incredible moment for Oklahoma,” as Norman is the first city in the state to pass such legislation. He noted Oklahoma has come a long way since 2015, when a statewide bill was proposed to protect conversation therapists. “Seeing bipartisan support and a unanimous vote for banning conversion therapy is an inspiring first step toward a statewide ban on conversion therapy,” Mr. Shurka said in an interview with The Black Wall St Times.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “The AACAP finds no evidence to support the application of any ‘therapeutic intervention’ operating under the premise that a specific sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression is pathological. Furthermore, based on the scientific evidence, the AACAP asserts that such ‘conversion therapies’ lack scientific credibility and clinical utility.”

1 comment

Christina Owen July 1, 2021 - 9:07 pm

They brought up the abortion ban as a scare tactic. A fellow Unite Norman member and friend of the dissenters, Shane Dodson, would attend Council and ask for an abortion ban every single meeting. Of course SCOTUS has ruled on abortion, while refusing to hear cases to reverse bans on conversion therapy in 2014, 2017, and 2019. So the comparison is not apples to apples.

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