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Anchorage Assembly passes ordinance banning conversion therapy for youth

Members passed ordinance in 9-2 vote Wednesday evening
The Anchorage Assembly gathers for a continued meeting on Aug. 26, 2020, which focused primarily on a conversion therapy ordinance.
The Anchorage Assembly gathers for a continued meeting on Aug. 26, 2020, which focused primarily on a conversion therapy ordinance.(KTUU)
Published: Aug. 26, 2020 at 10:57 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In a continued meeting inside the Anchorage Assembly meeting chambers at the Loussac Library on Wednesday, members went back and forth over a proposal regarding conversion therapy that eventually passed, while the discussion over a use-of-force ordinance that would write into law limits on the Anchorage Police Department’s policies was delayed.

The controversial proposal that would ban efforts to change a minor’s gender identity or sexual orientation through therapy was the first and only item addressed Wednesday, with public testimony kicking off the meeting.

“The decision to change to sexual orientation from what they physically are from birth is an enormous decision that will impact the rest of their lives,” said one testifier. “They are confused and need help understanding relationships of any kind.”

Another, identifying as a young member of the LGBTQ community, said they’d “heard a lot about parental rights.”

“But what about youths’rights?” they said. “Please vote in favor of this ordinance for youths like me. Sexual orientation is not a choice; it is who we are.”

Following about an hour of public testimony, and after discussing several of the dozen amendments proposed for the ordinance, member Jamie Allard moved to postpone a vote until a regular meeting for mid-September. She cited a need for more time to review amendments and discuss them with experts outside the Assembly.

Other members, however, took issue with the intentional delay of a proposal that’s been under official consideration since June, and her motion failed.

After the body made it through twelve amendments, including adjustments to a handful of those amendments, discussion over the ordinance as a whole once again commenced. Member John Weddleton – not allowed to propose the motion to postpone until September 15, since that motion had already failed – proposed postponing until September 29 instead, to which member Forrest Dunbar responded that the ordinance had been officially under consideration for months.

The vote was taken on the motion to postpone until late September also failed.

Before a final decision on the ordinance, every member – even one who was still considering his vote – made a passionate closing argument. Some, such as member Suzanne LaFrance, pushed for approving the ordinance.

“Parents can and should communicate with, counsel and provide guidance to their children,” LaFrance said. “Conversion therapy goes beyond that, and study after study has shown that this kind of coercion can be harmful. This ordinance allows for counseling; it just doesn’t allow the chance to force kids into changing who they are.”

Other members, including Crystal Kennedy, advocated for a ‘no’ vote.

“It is one-sided,” she said of the ordinance. “It really only serves to protect those who want to promote and protect homosexuality. There’s always another side, and we’ve heard a lot of that from a lot of the testimony over the last several days.

“This allows the government to play a role in determining the upbringing of a child,” she added. “It’s hard for me to fathom that in an age where we’re trying to strengthen families, we drive this wedge. And that’s pretty frustrating.”

There were also questions about the legality of the ordinance, but Assembly Chair Felix Rivera said he felt the wording was “sound” and would stand up in court.

In the end, the ordinance passed 9-2, with all members except Kennedy and Allard voting in favor. A subsequent motion to reconsider the ordinance failed.

The next regular Anchorage Assembly meeting will take place on September 15.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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