A view of Downtown Ketchikan near the intersection of Dock and Front streets in 2017. (Leila Kheiry/KRBD)

A proposal to ban therapy aimed at changing a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity within Ketchikan city limits failed on Thursday. The conversion therapy ban needed the support of at least four Ketchikan City Council members to move forward.

Council Member Janalee Gage sponsored the proposal. She pointed to the fact that conversion therapy has been disavowed by a variety major medical associations.

“It is not an evidence-based practice. It is very damaging,” she said.

But others on the council were skeptical. Council Member Riley Gass questioned whether the city could effectively enforce a ban.

“My concern would be, who makes that decision as to whether or not you’re practicing conversion therapy? And then, the enforcement — I mean, are we going to send undercover officers into clinics and churches?” he said.

The proposal follows a heated debate over a story reading by a drag queen at Ketchikan’s library. The City Council declined twice to cancel the event, with some members saying that it should be up to parents whether their children should attend. Council Member Lallette Kistler referred back to that debate.

“I have a fear of saying, you know, three weeks ago, it’s okay for the parents to decide. And this week, it’s not okay for the parents to decide,” she said.

Gage was the only council member to ultimately support drafting a ban.

In other business, the City Council voted 5-1 to ask voters whether to impose term limits for the mayor and council. The proposal would limit elected officials to three consecutive three-year terms.

Council Member Jai Mahtani said he thought term limits would make city government more efficient.

“This will also help this elected body to have urgency in getting things done and not drag them out,” he said.

Gage was the lone vote against imposing term limits. The three-term council member said she was concerned about pushing people with institutional knowledge out of office. 

“It seems like Ketchikan’s pot of people who actually want to do this work is very limited,” she said.

If approved in second reading later this month, the question would be placed on the October 4 municipal ballot.