Jackson County conversion therapy ban resurrected with changes that spark new opposition

Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 6:38 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - An effort to outlaw conversion therapy for minors in Jackson County is making progress after a failure last week that sparked an emotional outburst.

Conversion therapy is the discredited practice of attempting to change someone’s sexual orientation or identity to heterosexual and cisgender.

One ordinance died last week (No. 5711). Now there are two in play. One (No. 5726) has the same language as the one that failed. The other (No. 5728) adds a provision requiring public notice of the law once it goes into effect before it can be enforced.

The practice of conversion therapy has been denounced by major medical organizations as both ineffective and harmful.

Unlike bans enacted by cities in our region, the Jackson County ban would not have a religious exemption. The bans proposed in Jackson County also go further than other jurisdictions by creating a clear process for reporting and prosecuting violators. Furthermore, it mandates that any organization with an employee convicted of a violation be stripped of county funding.

After going through committee, that initial organization failed to pass last week, with 5 legislators voting in favor, 1 opposed and 3 abstaining.

This week, legislator Manny Abarca, one of the original ordinance’s co-sponsors, presented an alternative that he described as a compromise. The public notice provision was one of three amendments suggested by the sole no vote on the original ordinance.

“The goal was to try and accommodate some of our legislators’ suggestions from last week in hopes of bringing together a more congenial effort of approval here,” Abarca said at Monday’s meeting.

Unlike the previous version, which went through the lengthy committee process, his version was introduced, perfected and advanced on the same day. That means it goes directly to a final vote next Monday on whether to adopt it.

However, it’s far from a guarantee it will pass.

Many supporters of the original ordinance are opposed to the revised one. That includes County Executive Frank White, Chairman of the Kansas City LBGTQ Commission Justice Horn, the national organization the Trevor Project, and Anderson.

“Any law that pertains to harm towards an individual, never has that ever been done that you send out a notice to say, ‘Hey, we think it’s bad you’re doing it, but guess what, we’re going to give you 90 days, so get all those kids in that you can,’” Anderson said of the so-called compromise version.

Other concerns about the notification piece involved potential lawsuits and failed prosecution if a person or organization claims they simple didn’t know about the ordinance because they were not “notified.”

The vote on Ordinance 5728 was 5 yes, 2 no and 2 abstaining. Procedural rules meant that five votes were enough for that to pass, even though five was not enough for Ordinance 5711. But all that could change next week.

Five votes were enough to pass this time because no one objected to a simple majority. Last week, an objection meant a supermajority was needed. If anyone objects next week, the same supermajority could be required.

The mix of those who voted yes, no and abstaining changed from last week. Only two who voted yes voted the same way. All three of last week’s abstaining legislators moved to yes votes. Two of last week’s yes votes changed to no or abstaining.

Ordinance 5726 has advanced to committee.