Congrats, Anchorage! The Alaskan city banned the practice of conversion therapy for minors on Wednesday, joining 20 states and multiple cities. The Achorage Assembly voted 9-2 on the decision after a two-day hearing.
“This is a bill that would save lives, and it will when we pass it tonight,” Assemblywoman Austin Quinn-Davidson, one of the law’s sponsors and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, said.
The new law prohibits licensed professionals like therapists or school counselors from forcibly attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of anyone under 18 years of age. Two amendments were added to the ordinance as it passed. The first reinforces parents’ rights to provide their children with counsel, while the second exempts clergy members who are acting in a religious capacity.
During the public hearing period, most testifiers were against the ban, citing concerns about encroachment on freedom of speech and religion, as well as parental rights. Negative stereotypes about the LGBTQ+ community were thrown around as well, though queer members of the assembly used them as evidence for exactly why the ban needs to be in place.
“I received emails saying that I’m a pedophile or that I was molested as a child. Someone said that tonight,” said Quinn-Davidson. “We’re people. We’re real people. And when you say those things to us, it doesn’t hurt, because it’s wrong and we’re used to it. But it’s sad. It’s sad that that’s where our culture is. But I know that we will keep moving forward, and things will get better.”
Those in favor of the ban noted that conversion therapy is child abuse, highlighting the higher suicide rates for LGBTQ+ youth forced into the practice. Some of the testifiers had even been a victim of the practice itself and detailed their accounts as evidence for why the ban is needed.
“We have heard from members in this community who have been harmed by this practice — not 20 years ago or 30 years ago, but in the last five years,” Assemblyman Chris Constant said during the hearing. “But hopefully the message gets out in Anchorage: [You’re] not allowed to do this if you’re a professional counselor.”