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Lawrence council defers vote on banning conversion therapy

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Posted at 3:08 PM, Apr 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-07 16:08:42-04

LAWRENCE, Kan. — The Lawrence City Commission decided Tuesday to defer voting on a proposal that would ban conversion therapy for minors, after a disagreement over how to address counseling by religious organizations.

The ordinance would prohibit treating minors for conversion therapy, which generally is aimed at changing a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

City legal staff said the ordinance included an exception for clergy in order to avoid legal challenges based on religious freedom, The Lawrence Journal-World reported. []

"I support the ordinance, but I'm very reluctant to insert the city in the relationship between someone in the clergy and a member of their congregation," Commissioner Stuart Boley said.

City Attorney Maria Garcia said several supporters of the ordinance had contacted the city.

But one religious leader argued in correspondence to the city that the ordinance could stop religious schools from counseling students on the topic.

And Barry Foster, senior pastor of First Christian Church in Lawrence, argued the proposal was overly broad and prohibited approaches that could help minors "confused" about their sexuality and sense of self.

The commission voted to discuss the issue further with city attorneys before considering it again at a future meeting.