MERRIAM, Kan. — On Monday the Merriam City Council voted 8-0 to approve a resolution to condemn and discourage the practice of conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth. 

The resolution does not directly define what the practice of conversion therapy is. However, it does read in part: 

“The City Council hereby opposes all portrayals of lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals as mentally ill due to their sexual orientation. The Council also opposes all portrayals of noncisgender individuals as mentally ill. The Council supports the dissemination of accurate information about sexual orientation and gender identity, and mental health, and appropriate interventions in order to counteract bias that is based on ignorance or unfounded beliefs about sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The resolution goes on to condemn the practice of conversion therapy or any therapy that attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.  

During the council meeting Monday evening, several residents shared their thoughts on the resolution. 

Jay Moyer said instead of a resolution, he would prefer the council pass an ordinance that provides legal protection for LBGTQ youth by fully banning the practice of conversion therapy. 

“There are too many LGBTQ youth who self-harm and who complete suicide because they are subjected to the practice of conversion therapy,” Moyer said. 

Councilmember David Neal said based on guidance from the city legal counsel he would support the resolution, but would not support an ordinance. 

“The advice and the research and the citations were strong enough for me to conclude that passing an ordinance at this time is probably unconstitutional,” Neal said. ”That then obligates the city, or puts the city in the position of potentially [at] some point in time having to defend a law that we passed. Which we will probably lose and spend taxpayer money defending.” 

Kathy Row said she feels the resolution oversteps the role of the city council and could violate residents’ parental rights to determine what was best for their family.  

“As a resolution that reaches as far as this one does into the private, personal lives of its citizens it reaches way outside of the role of municipal governments,” Row said.  

Billy Croan said he feels the proposed resolution is likely politically motivated. Croan said the city would be better served passing a resolution condemning all non-consensual therapy practices instead of specifically conversion therapy for members of the LGBTQ community.  

“As no councilmember nor staff have mentioned a single conversion clinic actually torturing children here in Merriam, I’m left to conclude that divisive national politics is the underlying intent of this resolution,” Croan said. “I’m not alone in this observation, and as a gay man myself it’s hurtful to be used as a pawn in these politics.”  

Unlike ordinances passed in other Johnson County cities, the resolution cannot enforce a fine or any penalty against a licensed practitioner who performs conversion therapy within city limits. 

“I recognize that a resolution is not enough, but in this moment for us, for our city, I believe that it is just right, but it’s only the start of something,” Councilmember Whitney Yadrich said. 

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