Ketchikan’s City Council is scheduled to consider banning so-called “conversion therapy” that aims to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Council members plan to discuss Thursday whether to draft an ordinance banning the practice for minors within city limits.
City Council Member Janalee Gage sponsored the proposal.
“We’re talking about a practice that’s been discredited that targets LGBTQ+ youth and seeks to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. This practice has been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades,” she said by phone Wednesday.
Leading medical organizations like the American Medical Association and American Psychological Association reject conversion therapy, saying it puts children at risk of suicide. Ketchikan Pride Alliance board member Ryan McHale said in a prepared statement that the practice is dangerous.
“Conversion therapy has repeatedly been linked to an increase in the likelihood of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, homelessness and suicide. The Ketchikan Pride Alliance encourages discussion on this issue. It is our hope that Ketchikan can be a community that is safe and inclusive to all,” he said.
Gage says the ordinance would only apply to state-licensed physicians, therapists, psychologists and other medical professionals. She says conversion therapy led by clergy would still be allowed.
It’s unclear how widespread conversion therapy is in Ketchikan.
Gage says concerned residents have reached out to her about recent conversion therapy efforts involving Ketchikan youth. She declined to name the providers involved, citing privacy concerns.
She did not name any medical professionals who might be affected by the ban. A spokesperson for PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center, the local hospital and largest medical provider, said in an email that conversion therapy is “not something practiced nor supported” by the Catholic hospital system.
The proposed ban comes on the heels of intense community debates over Pride Month programming at Ketchikan’s library and government funding for the Pride Alliance. Gage says she’s expecting more pushback.
“I am expecting that, probably because I always expect the worst,” she said.
The ban would need a four-vote majority to move forward. If approved Thursday, a draft ordinance would be brought back for another vote at a later date.
In other business, Ketchikan’s City Council is scheduled to consider imposing term limits for council members and the mayor. There currently are no limits on how many three-year terms the mayor and council can serve. Under the proposal up for debate Thursday, council members and the mayor would be limited to three terms.
If approved by the council, voters would be asked to approve the change on the October 4 municipal ballot.
Ketchikan’s City Council meets at 7 p.m. Thursday in City Hall. Members of the public have a chance to weigh in at the beginning of the meeting. The meeting is livestreamed on local cable channels and the city’s website.