Ferndale City Council voted unanimously at its Oct. 14, 2019, regular meeting to enact an ordinance banning the practice of conversion therapy within the city limits. The act will now be classified as a misdemeanor, with violations punishable by up to 93 days jail time and a $500 fine.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, conversion therapy, sometimes known as “reparative therapy,” is a range of dangerous and discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
Recently-appointed City Councilmember Julia Music, who serves as a community advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, asexual, and intersex (LGBTQAI) individuals and manages the city’s annual Ferndale Pride event, initiated the ban.
“It’s essential for LGBTQAI people to have access to proper mental health care, and for those who are impacted by conversion therapy to access care that can start to undo the harm conversion tactics inflict,” said Music. “Council bringing up a ban on this therapy continues our mission of building safe and inclusive space to all people.”
The practice of conversion therapy has been classified as harmful by the American Medical Association, American Counseling Association, National Association of Social Workers, American Psychological Association, and a number of other accredited and highly-regarded professional organizations.
Dave Garcia, executive director for Affirmations, the area’s largest LGBTQ community center, attended the Council meeting to share his support for the ban.
“Conversion therapy is hurting and killing people,” Garcia said. “I’ve seen for myself the damage this practice does to our youth. It’s not therapy, and we should not allow it in our city.”
The ban will go into effect once the ordinance has been published.