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This week Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms introduced a resolution to establish the City of Atlanta’s opposition to the practice of conversion therapy which was subsequently unanimously passed by the city council.
Conversion therapy is based on the notion that LGBTQ expression is a form of mental illness, and that an individual can change given the right intervention, according to the Trevor Project, an organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to homosexual, transgendered and questioning youths.
The practice, according to the American Psychiatric Association, is very dangerous. “The potential risks of [conversion] therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient,” according to the association.
“The passage of this Resolution sends a clear message that the city of Atlanta will always stand for equality and human dignity — regardless of who you are or who you love,” Bottoms said in a statement. “State-sanctioned practices that inflict persecution and suffering on LGBTQ individuals — particularly young people — should end immediately. Simply put — we cannot and should not endanger the well-being of the LGBTQ community for living their truth. This administration and the city respectfully calls on our state partners to join us on the right side of history.”
On top of clarifying the city’s stance on conversion therapy, the resolution also calls on the State of Georgia, the Georgia Composite Board of Professional Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage and Family Therapists, the Georgia Board of Nursing, the Georgia Composite Medical Board, and the State Board of Examiners of Psychologists to help prohibit the practice and advertising of conversion therapy, city materials indicate.
The city council also felt prompted to make statements in opposition to conversation therapy. Councilmember Julian Bond, who introduced the resolution to the council, said in a statement, “Conversion therapy has been proven to be a false medical practice that is harmful to the patients it claims to help.”
Bond added, “We should be encouraging individuals, families and communities to embrace people for who they are. We encourage the state to join us in disallowing conversion therapy. By not doing so, it becomes a tacit endorsement of prejudice towards the LGBTQ community. Atlanta has taken the position of love, acceptance and tolerance, and we invite the state of Georgia to do the same.”
Other councilmembers echoed this sentiment in official statements, including Carla Smith, Amir Farokhi, Dustin Hills and Matt Westmoreland.
Many authoritative bodies in the medical and mental health fields have denounced conversion therapy. In Nov. 2018, the American Psychiatric Association reiterated their strong opposition to the practice, repeating a position statement made in 2013 – “The American Psychiatric Association does not believe that same-sex orientation should or needs to be changed, and efforts to do so represent a significant risk of harm by subjecting individuals to forms of treatment which have not been scientifically validated and by undermining self-esteem when sexual orientation fails to change.”
No credible evidence exists that any mental health intervention can reliably and safely change sexual orientation; nor, from a mental health perspective does sexual orientation need to be changed, according to the association.
As of April 2019, conversion therapy has been banned in 16 sates as well as the District of Columbia, according to the Trevor Project, and many more communities are proposing legislation to do the same.