July 13, 2018 —
Mayor Lovely Warren, City Councilmember Mitch Gruber, HRC’s Carol Ebersole-Weiss, Out Alliance Interim Executive Director Jeff Myers, and Assemblymember Harry Bronson addressed members of the media at 3:45pm this afternoon outside of the Bachelor Forum, 670 University Ave, to announce the City of Rochester’s plan to ban the harmful practice of “conversion therapy” on minors, or those under 18.
Councilmember Gruber and Mayor Warren have proposed legislation to Rochester City Council to ban the harmful practice as a matter of protection for children in our city.
The legislation presented to the City Council adds language under the consumer protection section of the municipal code to prohibit “any services, offered or provided to consumers for a fee, that are intended to change a person’s sexual orientation or to change a person’s gender identity to conform to the sex of such individual that was recorded at birth.”
The practice known as conversion or reparative therapy has been rejected by most health practitioners as ineffective and harmful, leading to negative outcomes such as depression, anxiety, drug abuse and even suicide.
“This controversial practice has been debunked and is seen by health professionals as detrimental and unhealthy for LGBTQ youth,” Mayor Warren said. “Our LGBTQ community deserves the same protections from discrimination as everyone else. In order to create more jobs, safer and more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities, we must be a welcoming city that prides itself on its diversity.”
“Conversion therapy is based on a false and ugly premise: that there is something wrong with being LGBTQ,” said Councilmember Gruber. “By banning conversion therapy, the City of Rochester will reject this lie and reaffirm that all people should be treated equally regardless of who they are and who they love.”
“For therapists to charge individuals — or their parents — for such a ‘therapy’ is predatory, and really unconscionable,” Mayor Warren said. “It is basically a scam, and it instills pain and shame at a time when young people need love and support.”
Mayor Warren spoke exclusively with the Empty Closet moments after the press conference.
When asked what this piece of legislation meant for our city, the Mayor had this to say:
“It hopefully will help the State move to where they ban [conversion therapy] state-wide and for us…we have always been leaders when it comes to LGBTQ communities and the issues and challenges they face. For us to continue to be at the forefront is important. We know that this is something that causes more harm than good and it’s not something that we want practiced in our community.”
Former Councilmember Matt Haag, who served until 2017, brought the issue up initially with Mayor Warren and they discussed producing the legislation before the end of Haag’s term. Discussions with the
Human Rights Campaign and extensive research on the part of the City’s law department and City Council legislative aides followed to understand logistics, legal rights to enact the ban, and language to put to paper followed.
“It was a question of getting it started, researching it, looking at what other cities are doing across the state, what we were allowed to do from a state perspective, and putting it into City Council for them to vote,” said Mayor Warren.
She said she is confident that the proposed legislation will pass in the City Council unanimously.
“For Rochester, we want to make sure our children are protected and lifted up and we will continue to do everything possible to ensure that. When we’re looking at safer, more vibrant neighborhoods, job opportunities and better educational opportunities for our children: this is in line with what we are doing and how we’re moving Rochester forward.”
New York State has not passed state-wide legislation banning conversion therapy at the legislative level.
Since June 2018, Erie County (with the P.E.N.C.E. Act), Albany, New York City and Ulster County already legally ban conversion therapy on minors.
Proposed conversion therapy bans are pending in Nassau County, Albany County, and Westchester County.