A bill introduced to Charleston City Council Monday evening would ban conversion therapy — any practice or treatment that seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Councilwoman Caitlin Cook, a council liaison to the city’s LGBTQ Working Group, introduced the bill.
“This ordinance really is about protecting and valuing our LGBT community members that call Charleston home, as well as and making it known to visitors that may come to Charleston that we are an inclusive community,” Cook said.
She added that Charleston has made great strides in positioning itself as an inclusive city. The capital was the first city in West Virginia to pass a local LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance more than a decade ago, according to Fairness West Virginia, a statewide civil rights advocacy organization.
“This is another step that we can take together to make Charleston a more inclusive city while also protecting and valuing our youth,” Cook said.
Under the bill, if the city solicitor determines a medical or mental health practitioner has violated the ordinance, they may mail the practitioner a cease-and-desist notice. The bill also outlines that targets of conversion therapy may bring civil action for relief or damages. Conversion therapy would be punishable by up to a $1,000 fine for each violation.
If the council passes the bill, Charleston would be the first municipality in West Virginia to ban conversion therapy. The practice is opposed by major medical associations and their state affiliates.
Cook said conversion therapy has detrimental long-term effects on children who undergo it, including depression, self-harm and suicide.
“This does happen and, when it does happen, it causes immense damage to people,” Cook said. “If we can prevent a child from harming themselves, from potentially committing suicide as a result of conversion therapy, we should take that action.”
The Youth Mental Health Protection Act, which would ban the practice statewide, was introduced during the 2021 legislative session, but it died in committee.
Charleston’s bill was referred to the council’s Ordinance and Rules Committee for discussion.
- The City Council approved a resolution allowing the city to join the Charleston Rotary Club in applying to the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation for a $35,000 grant to benefit the revitalization of Celebration Station, a playground outside Piedmont Elementary, on Charleston’s East End. Fundraising efforts are underway for new equipment at the playground, which was built more than 25 years ago.
Earlier Monday, Kate White, a Piedmont Elementary school parent helping organize revitalization efforts, joined officials from Kanawha County Schools to get input from children using the playground about what they want the renovated playground to be like. White said fundraising efforts for the space are ongoing, and organizers hope to build this fall.
- The council passed a resolution authorizing the city to submit an application to the Department of Justice for funds to purchase 90 body-worn cameras for the Charleston Police Department.
- The council authorized the purchase of 1,000 specialty folding chairs and 17 transport carts for the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center. The total cost would be $72,973.