By Shereen Siewert

Members of the Wausau City Council on Tuesday will consider officially supporting a proposed statewide ban on conversion therapy, which attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

The resolution under consideration Tuesday states that “we speak with one voice that this practice is not acceptable in this community and we urge our state legislators to enact legislation that would ban this practice and provide for penalties for violation of such legislation,” according to city documents.

The Liberation and Freedom committee initially recommended an ordinance on the matter, which would be in line with other Wisconsin communities’ policies on conversion therapy. But after receiving feedback from local health professionals and the chair of Public Health and Safety, members of the Liberation and Freedom committee concluded that a resolution is appropriate since no fine or enforcement will be included in the policy, if passed.

Under the terms of the proposal, if a healthcare provider is practicing conversion therapy, a board complaint will be filed with the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services.

So-called “conversion therapy,” sometimes known as “reparative therapy,” is a range of widely discredited practices that claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Such practices have been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades, but some practitioners continue to conduct conversion therapy. According to the Human Rights Campaign, minors are especially vulnerable and conversion therapy can lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide.

To date, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico all have laws or regulations protecting youth from this practice. Eight of these state laws or regulations were enacted under Republican governors.

A growing number of municipalities have also enacted similar protections, including at least 70 cities and counties in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin.

A number of religious groups promote the concept that sexual orientation or gender identity can be changed through prayer or other religious efforts, or through such therapy methods. Critics say such methods are not effective and can be harmful. Virtually every major medical and mental health organization in the U.S. has issued a statement condemning the use of conversion therapy.

If the measure passes, the city clerk will send copies of this resolution to the local legislatures, Gov. Tony Evers, and local U.S. Representatives and Senators. The City Council meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers at City Hall 407 Grant St., hall