CITY HALL – Clearing its desks before going on holiday break, the Board of Aldermen approved last week a bill meant to ban a practice that seeks to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LBGTQIA children.
The bill, sponsored by Sixth Ward Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia, would prohibit medical and mental health care providers from providing conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy or ex-gay therapy, on those younger than 18.
Because of federal and state protections, religiously oriented organizations or counselors would still be able to undertake the practice. The city Department of Health would investigate potential violations and refer them to the city counselor for prosecution in municipal court.
Ingrassia and others who favored the measure said in discussion on the bill that the practice had been discredited.
“Most of the major pediatric and other major associations and psychiatric associations have made statements or written white papers about how dangerous it is,” she has said.
Opponents spoke at a committee hearing on the bill; all of the opponents were religious and all from outside of the city. They contended that conversion therapy was safe and had helped many to walk away from the LBGTQIA lifestyle. They said banning the practice would deny people the option to seek another way to live and would deny religious liberty.
Their arguments failed to sway the aldermen.
The bill they passed sets penalties of a fine of up to $500 or imprisonment of up to 90 days or both, the maximum allowed by the City Charter.
In other action, aldermen took final action to approve a bill that outlaws the declawing of cats.
The measure also prohibits keeping animals outside when it’s 32 degrees or below or 93 degrees or higher. It also allows a combination of dog parks and restaurants with a variance in which the public could offer comment.
The declawing provisions would prohibit the procedure except in limited medical circumstances. It was part of a bill that updates animal welfare guidelines in the city.
“As we progress through time, we learn things that we didn’t know before,” Ingrassia said right after she introduced the bill. “Most veterinarians and advocacy animal groups think this is the right thing, and the research backs it up, and I think it’s important to have a conversation here at the board about it.”
Aldermen also gave initial approval to bills banning possession of handguns by minors and prohibiting employers from asking applicants whether they have a criminal history, at least in the initial phase of the job application process.
The Dec. 13 meeting was the last meeting before Christmas. The next meeting will be on Jan. 10.
After the gavel went down on Friday’s meeting, Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed told reporters that some of the best action aldermen had taken so far in the 2019-20 session had to do with cutting the rates of shootings and homicides in St. Louis.
Reed particularly praised the passage of a bill granting $5 million for the Cure Violence program in St. Louis. That bill approved funds for three years of work by contractors who intervene in conflicts in neighborhoods before those conflicts become deadly.
Proponents say the method has brought sharp reductions in shootings and murders where it’s been tried in other cities. The program will start in March.
“I’m really happy that we’ve established groundwork to be able to do that, and I’m looking forward to next year being a better year,” Reed said.