KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Finance, Governance and Public Safety Committee heard impassioned pleas on both sides of a conversion therapy debate Wednesday.
Supporters of the conversion therapy ban say it is a dangerous practice, but there are others who say that not allowing this type of therapy is dangerous for people who are struggling with their sexuality.
The committee heard heartbreaking stories from members of the LGBTQ community about their experiences with social discrimination and conversion therapy.
The proposed conversion therapy ban ordinance would make it illegal for licensed medical providers in KCMO to provide conversion therapy to people under 18.
As a teenager desperately seeking acceptance, Zachary Mallory voluntarily entered conversion therapy through his church. Methods used, he said, included electric shock therapy to associate pain with his attraction to men.
"He would show me different images of sexual acts on a projector, and he would tell me this is wrong with who you are. You need to change yourself," Mallory said.
"I wrote a five and a half page suicide note to my parents shortly after ending conversion therapy. I am still here because I chose to be here. I am still here because I am sending a message to every single LGBTQ youth that you are beautiful and you nee to be celebrated."
Andrew Comiskey, director of Desert Stream Ministries, can relate to Mallory's story, except his has a very different ending.
He identified as a gay teen and embraced his sexuality for years. Comiskey eventually entered into conversion therapy.
"My heart breaks for them, and I think, 'Why was any parent allowing their children to go through such dehumanizing treatment?" Comiskey said.
"I had a forward vision for my life and so that began on a quest for me that included a relationship with Jesus, a supportive community and getting good clinical help to resolve some of the underlying issues of my same sex attraction."
Now happily married with children and grandchildren, Comiskey believes a ban would take away the ability for people like him to receive responsible and effective therapy.
"Their view is carrying the day, and we are now the underdog minority and we are the ones who are being penalized. This ordinance is not getting the help we need," Comiskey said.
If the proposed ordinance passes the full council, Kansas City would be the second city in the state of Missouri to enact conversion therapy ban.