The Royal Oak City Commission voted at its monthly meeting Monday, Aug. 10, to make conversion therapy on minors criminal misdemeanor. This follows its decision in June to pass an ordinance prohibiting the practice in the city.
Royal Oak is the sixth city in the state to enact such a ban. Huntington Woods became the first last June. Since then, Ferndale, Berkley, Madison Heights and East Lansing have also come on board. Across the country, 20 states and have banned the practice. Michigan is one of the remaining 30 that has not taken such action, although there are two bills, Senate Bill 284 and House Bill 4515, currently pending in the legislature.
The American Medical Association and the National Association of Social Workers have both discredited the practice labeling it as harmful to those who undergo it.
“I have met many individuals later in life who have gone through conversion therapy who spent years trying to undo the negative effects of what happened to them during the attempted conversion,” said Joe Kort, founder and director of The Center for Relationship and Sexual Health, which is located in Royal Oak. “There is no science behind conversion therapy that’s satisfactory because it doesn’t work.”
Kort said the lingering effects of such alleged treatments include nightmares, anxiety and depression. In addition, many participants spend a significantly greater time in the closet before coming out. Additionally, many who have undergone this treatment marry a spouse of the opposite sex in an attempt to convince themselves that the treatments have worked only to later divorce.
The Royal Oak ordinance, if violated, will come with a penalty including up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine, which is the toughest penalty the city could enforce according to City Attorney David Gillam who drafted the ordinance.
“Even though there’s a ban and it’s illegal in many states to provide conversion therapy to minors, sadly it’s been done by the unlicensed professionals in religious institutions and coerced by the parents forcing them into these programs,” Kort said. “This type of ‘therapy’ is very harmful and abusive and causes trauma to the teenagers that are involved.”