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‘Amazing victory for LGBTQ youth.’ Lexington council votes to ban conversion therapy.

UPDATED MAY 13, 2021 11:49 AM

Jacob Troxell, from left, Jameel Cox and Andre Kenerly, members of the Lexington Streets and Roads community service crew, clean the rainbow-painted crosswalk at the intersection of Short Street and North Limestone Friday, June 28, 2019. RYAN C. HERMENS RHERMENS@HERALD-LEADER.COM

State-licensed providers will no longer be able to practice conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth in Fayette County starting immediately.

On Thursday, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council voted unanimously to pass an ordinance that prohibits the practice that has been widely discredited by nearly every major medical group.

City officials said the ban takes effect immediately.

Lexington is believed to be the third city in Kentucky to ban conversion therapy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals under the age of 18.

Covington and Louisville enacted similar local bans last year. Efforts to pass statewide legislation have failed repeatedly in recent years.

Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky, a group that has backed a statewide conversion therapy ban, estimates there are seven conversion therapy providers in Fayette County. Statewide there are 57 providers.

Thursday night’s vote drew praise from LGBTQ activists.

“We are incredibly proud to see Lexington continue to lead on LGBTQ rights,” said Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign. “With Lexington’s ban on so-called ‘conversion therapy,’ more than twenty percent of Kentucky’s population now lives in a city where children are protected from this deadly anti-LGBTQ torture. I am excited to see which city or county in our commonwealth will be the next to protect the lives of LGBTQ youth with a similar ban.”

Officials with the Trevor Project, a national nonprofit that advocates for suicide prevention and crisis intervention for LGBTQ youth, also praised Lexington for moving forward with a ban.

“This is an amazing victory for the LGBTQ youth of Lexington, who deserve to live their lives without fear of being subjected to the horrors of conversion therapy,” said Sam Brinton, vice president of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project. “The Trevor Project’s research demonstrates that this so-called ‘therapy’ has only ever worked to produce negative mental health outcomes and increase suicide risk. It’s time to expand these vital protections to all of Kentucky’s LGBTQ youth statewide.”

Under the proposed ordinance, any state-certified provider would be prohibited from offering any treatment that encourages a patient to change sexual orientation or gender identity.

Pastors that do not have a state-certified license would not be covered by the local ban.

The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission will investigate complaints.

Ray Sexton, executive director of the human rights commission, said if a state-certified provider is found guilty of providing conversion therapy to anyone under 18, a hearing officer would determine the punishment. The Human Rights Commission does not have the legal authority to revoke a state-certified license.

The commission can ask for monetary damages, Sexton told the General Government and Social Services Committee during its March 9 meeting. The 15-member council voted unanimously April 14 to move the issue to the council’s agenda.

The ordinance was sponsored by Councilwomen Susan Lamb and Liz Sheehan.

“I want to thank my colleagues for their support,” Lamb said after the vote. Sheehan also thanked the community for its support. Many organizations, individuals and state lawmakers urged the council to pass the ban. Both also thanked Mayor Linda Gorton and her staff for their help in getting the ordinance passed.

No one spoke against the ban at any of the council meetings where it was discussed including Thursday night’s meeting.

Twenty states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico have banned the practice. More than 70 local governments have also banned the therapy. More than three dozen medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, have condemned conversion therapy. Those that support it at the statewide level include the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, the Kentucky Mental Health Coalition and Kentucky Youth Advocates.


This story was originally published May 7, 2021 7:09 AM.

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