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City moves toward ban on conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth

Allison Kite, The Kansas City Star on

Published in News & Features

"Conversion therapy was one of the ... darkest times of my life, and every night, I still deal with waking up from nightmares and flashbacks," Mallory said.

Joel Barrett, a former Baptist minister, said he knew the impact of conversion therapy because he "spent his entire life being told he could be not both gay and godly."

"I know the emotional, spiritual and psychological damage done to me as an adult," Barrett said. "No minor should be subjected to this harmful practice."

He said conversion therapy in his 30s was the only time he "ever seriously considered dying as a better alternative to living."

The ordinance the committee approved would ban the practice for anyone under the age of 18, but would allow it to continue for adults. It applies to licensed providers in medical and mental health professions, including counselors, psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists and behavior analysts. It does not bar religious leaders from speaking with youth about their sexuality.

While the majority of attendees supported the ban, there was vocal opposition from several organizations.

Andrew Comiskey, who founded Desert Stream Living Waters to provide Christian-based sexual counseling, said he identified as gay as a teen but chose to pursue faith.


"My wife today is grateful. Four children later, six grandchildren later -- best decision I ever made," Comiskey said. "I believe this bill is wrong because it bans choice for persons like me. It says one way forward for vulnerable youth -- that is the LGBT way and no other way."

Dino Durando, who represents the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, said he understood the interest in the proposal and believed that Mallory was "tortured," but said that shock treatment was clearly already illegal because the church wasn't qualified to administer it.

Durando said the diocese believes the proposal is "over broad in its reach" and an "inappropriate encroachment by a city's police power into the work of professionals who are already well regulated by professional licensing standards and state law."

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