Austin City Council voted Thursday to prohibit the use of city funds in support of businesses connected to LGBTQ conversion therapy.
Conversion therapy aims to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity through psychological or spiritual means. According to a 2015 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “conversion therapy is not effective, reinforces harmful gender stereotypes, and is not an appropriate mental health treatment.”
With a resolution from the LGBTQ Quality of Life Advisory Commission, the Austin City Council will also no longer allow LGBTQ conversion therapy in city of Austin employee benefits. The decision places Austin in the company of at least 47 municipalities that have banned the practice, according to the resolution.
City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan said he is proud of the LGBTQ Quality of Life Advisory Commission for bringing inclusive policies to the council.
“When I first got elected as the first openly gay man on city council, the very first thing that we did was create the LGBTQ Quality of Life Commission because I knew that the community’s needs were much more diverse than any one person can represent,” Flannigan said.
An estimated 698,000 LGBTQ adults have received conversion therapy in the U.S. and 73,000 youth will be subjected to the practice before reaching 18 years old, according to the Williams Institute, a UCLA Law think tank that researches sexual orientation and gender identity law.
Child development professor Stephen Russell and his research team surveyed 245 self-identifying LGBTQ people ages 21-25 by asking questions about their families and upbringing. He said the survey showed that participants who had a family member try to change their identity were at a higher risk for suicide and had compromised mental health.
“Therapeutic intervention should not be around changing that part of you,” Russell said. “It’s more like changing the part of you that doesn’t like it and recognizing the societal stigma that has produced that feeling.”
Isaac James and Sarah Hudson, Texas Queer & Trans Students Alliance co-directors, said they applauded the council’s strong stance against the “harmful bigotry” of anti-LGBTQ conversion therapy practices. Lisa Moore, director of UT’s LGBTQ Studies Program, said in the current political climate, the resolution is an affirmation of the worth and humanity of LGBTQ people.
“I would compare it to the city saying, ‘None of our money or property can be used for sex trafficking,’” Moore said. “You would think you wouldn’t need to say that.”