Metro Weekly

Covington bans conversion therapy for minors

Board of Commissioners makes Covington the first city in Kentucky to ban the practice

Covington, Ky. – Photo: City of Covington, via Facebook.

The city of Covington, Ky., a suburb of Cincinnati, voted on Tuesday to ban the practice of conversion therapy on minors.

The Covington Board of Commissioners voted unanimously, 5-0, to approve the ban, which defines conversion therapy as “the use of psychological or spiritual interventions in attempts to force a person to change their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”

Meeting in a near-empty City Hall — due to city efforts to encourage social distancing amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — for its regularly scheduled legislative meeting, the commissioners heard a second reading of the ordinance, which prohibits LGBTQ-identifying individuals under 18 from being subjected to conversion therapy.

The ordinance’s passage makes Covington the first locality in Kentucky to ban conversion therapy.

Commissioner Shannon Smith, who first introduced the ordinance in February, said she was “proud to have the opportunity to introduce this ban,” reports Cincinnati-based NBC affiliate WLWT.

“Research demonstrates that sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts can pose critical health risks to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons, and contemporary science recognizes that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is part of the natural spectrum of human identity and is not a disease, disorder, or illness,” Smith said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Commissioner Denny Bowman said that after researching conversion therapy, he equates the practice to “mental torture” and “some forms of child abuse,” reports the Northern Kentucky Tribune.

Bowman added that he wanted the Commission to send a letter to Commonwealth Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R), who frequently talked of combatting child abuse during his campaign, urging him to endorse a statewide ban.

Related: Kentucky governor calls for passage of LGBTQ nondiscrimination law and ban on conversion therapy

Currently, 19 states and several dozen cities across the United States — including Cincinnati — ban conversion therapy on minors.

Legislation was introduced to ban the practice in Kentucky — as several other states — this year, but the Kentucky bills have thus far failed to gain traction in the Republican-dominated General Assembly.

According to the Williams Institute, an LGBTQ policy think tank at the UCLA School of Law, an estimated 700,000 LGBTQ adults have been subjected to conversion therapy in their lives, with about half being subjected to it as minors.

Most major medical and mental health organizations, as well as numerous physicians, have called for a ban on the therapy, pointing to a New England Journal of Medicine study finding that people subjected to conversion therapy often experience higher rates of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts.

Adam Roland, of the Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky, praised the commissioners’ actions, calling passage of the ban “very important” and “a tremendous step.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at

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