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On July 18, a majority of the Oakland County Commission voted in favor of a resolution to ban conversion therapy in Michigan. Specifically, the resolution supports Senate Bill 284, introduced by Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) in April, which would ban conversion therapy by mental health providers on minors. Conversion therapy is the widely discredited pseudoscientific practice of attempting to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The resolution was introduced by Commissioner Helaine Zack.
Zack represents District 18, comprising the cities of Ferndale, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods and Royal Oak Township, as well as a portion of the city of Oak Park. She said the inspiration for the resolution came from her hometown of Huntington Woods, which became the first city in Michigan to ban conversion therapy on June 5. Since then, East Lansing, Ferndale and Berkley have followed suit.
“I am personally opposed to conversion therapy,” Zack said. “I’m a social worker; I think [conversion therapy] is awful. I loved how my city was speaking out and setting the tone and I said, ‘OK, let me take this to the county.’”
She said it was an important conversation to have.
“I also got the Oakland County Health Network to chime in and also speak out from a psychological standpoint how they’re opposed to it,” Zack said. “So they’re supporters of this … and they’re a public mental health entity.”
In addition, Zack said she was interested in exploring whether it is within their jurisdiction to institute a countywide conversion therapy ban, as other counties across the nation have done, because legislation for a statewide ban has failed repeatedly since 2014. None of the bills introduced has received a committee hearing, much less a full floor vote.
Zack is one of the longest-serving members of the Oakland County Commission, having begun her tenure in 2003 along with then-Commissioner Dave Coulter, who is now the county executive. This is her last term.
Editor’s Note: The resolution was passed in July, while Oakland County was still headed by a Republican executive. Resolutions do not require the approval of the county executive.