PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. — A ban on conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth is heading to the Prairie Village City Council for full approval. The ordinance passed out of committee on Monday.
If approved, it would be the second city in Johnson County to have an ordinance of its nature. Brian Shapley with Equality Kansas, a local LGBTQ ally group, says one out of 10 LGBTQ children has been forced into conversion therapy.
“Whether it's happening in Prairie Village specifically right now or not, doesn’t change whether or not it's a right or wrong thing to happen,” Shapley said.
The debate to end conversion therapy for LGBTQ children in Prairie Village could come to an end in less than two weeks. The ordinance fines violators up to $1,000 for practicing conversion therapy on minors.
“I believe with 100% of my being, this is torturing children,” Shapley said. “There is zero evidence that there is any functionality to conversion therapy, and there’s lots of evidence that it's extremely destructive and harmful to children.”
Local initiatives are catching the eyes of federal lawmakers.
“The fact that that's happening at the local level demonstrates, to I hope everyone, that we’re really in this era where we are trying to make sure people are taken care of and protected,” said Rep. Sharice Davids.
But with any debate, some are opposed. Councilwoman Sheila Myers thinks the ordinance is unnecessary with no evidence it is happening within city limits.
“If it's behind closed doors, you are not gonna know about it. How are you going to enforce the ban?” Myers said.
Instead, she encourages local advocacy organizations and the media to educate the public on why this type of therapy is not acceptable.
“I think it's horrible. I think it’s so sad that a young adult, a teenager, who feels that they are homosexual would be made guilty about that — to suppress those feelings,” Myers said.
Roeland Park’s Mayor Mike Kelly, who passed a similar ban last year, says laws give people the confidence to report illegal activities.
“Our police department, our court system are behind the ordinances that we put in place, and we work with them to make sure that they are so,” Kelly said. “We have not had any reported cases of conversion therapy in violation of the ordinance.
"So you can always speculate — does that mean there wasn’t any conversion therapy taking place? Or is this ordinance one of the tools in the toolkit that’s preventing it from otherwise taking place? And you can never say for sure.”
Roeland Park was the first city back in 2014 to pass an inclusive non-discrimination ordinance. It took five years for all other cities within Johnson and Wyandotte counties to follow suit.
Myers expects to see the current ordinance on the Oct. 18 meeting agenda.