Davenport city leaders are considering a ban on so-called “conversion therapy” for minors on April 22. It will be the third vote on the ordinance after it passed the first two times.
According to the city of Davenport, conversion therapy is “an attempt to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The practice of conversion therapy does irreparable harm by portraying sexual orientation and gender identity as mental illness.”
Conversion therapy is defined as “any practices or treatments that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender.
Conversion therapy DOES NOT mean “gender confirmation surgery, counseling that providers support and assistance to a person undergoing gender transition, or counseling that provides acceptance, support and understanding of a person or facilitates a person’s coping, social support and development, including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices, as long as such counseling does not seek to change sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Davenport’s ban would prohibit providers from advertising or performing conversion therapy.
“The ban grants subject matter jurisdiction to the Davenport Civil Rights Commission and protects children exposed to conversion therapy by extending the time frame with which complaints may be made to one year beyond their eighteenth birthday,” the document states.
The Iowa Standard talked with Mallory Hoyt, assistant city attorney, on Tuesday evening. Hoyt was asked if the city is aware of any practitioners providing conversion therapy in the Davenport area.
“We don’t have any information on who is providing conversion therapy at this time,” Hoyt said. “It’s more of a proactive measure.”
The ban, Hoyt said, would apply to people who are licensed as counselors and anybody considered a practitioner — counselors or licensed therapists.
“Everybody who is a licensed practitioner,” Hoyt said.
If someone is practicing as part of your faith, Hoyt said it would be different. But if someone is practicing as part of their business, then it falls under the ban.
The Iowa Standard examined the ordinance, but cannot find that exemption in the document.
“There’s a difference between counseling and conversion therapy,” Hoyt said. “Conversion therapy is the practice of trying to get somebody to change their identity, not the person trying to grapple with emotions. So, if you wanted to go talk to a therapist about how you’re feeling, that’s different than someone trying to push conversion therapy on you.”
Hoyt said anyone wanting to seek out conversion therapy wouldn’t be in trouble.
“We don’t prosecute the patient for this,” she said.
However, the patient, of course, would not be able to find anyone able to legally provide the therapy.
Hoyt was asked if Davenport had banned any other forms of therapy.
“No, the state has,” she said. “I don’t know why the state didn’t take this up further this cycle. They had moved ahead with something but it stalled. Typically the state takes up these issues before we do, but other kinds of practices would be considered violations of civil rights. A doctor can’t prescribe a black person bleaching cream to make them not black anymore.”
The Iowa Standard asked if Hoyt thought a city could ban practitioners from providing abortion services as well.
“I don’t know that answer,” she said. “I don’t think so, but I don’t know that for sure. That’s not on the table.”
When asked what the difference was, Hoyt said banning conversion therapy is a civil rights issue and cities across the country have been doing this when states don’t act.
“Abortion is a totally different issue. That’s a surgical method. We don’t regulate surgeries, we can regulate civil rights issues,” Hoyt added.
The concern with conversion therapy, Hoyt said, is that it has a “very specific intent” that is “proven to cause irreparable harm.”
When asked what makes conversion therapy a civil rights issue, she said:
“It relates to gender identity and sexual orientation.”
The FAMiLY Leader put forth the following statement:
“The City of Davenport is considering a ban on so-called ‘conversion’ therapy. This ban limits the free speech and religious practice of licensed therapists in the city by discriminating against a biblical view of human sexuality. Instead of regulating certain forms of so-called ‘treatment’ – such as forced vomiting, painful electric shock, or other physical cruelty for minors, which nearly all Iowans, including TFL, would find repulsive for any reason – these laws criminalize a therapist who wishes to talk from a certain point of view. For example, a licensed counselor would not be able to encourage a minor that following God’s model of sexuality over their own desires is best for them.
“Additionally, under this ordinance, a pastor who was licensed to practice counseling could be prosecuted for helping a minor struggling with gender dysphoria to conform to their biological gender. TFL urges the people of Davenport to oppose this ordinance.”
People can find information on Davenport city officials here.