La Crosse Common Council passes ban on conversion therapy practices

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — After several months of public feedback and amendments, La Crosse’s Common Council passed an ordinance banning medical and mental health professionals from practicing conversion therapy on Thursday.

Conversion therapy is a controversial practice of changing a person’s sexuality or gender identity.

La Crosse’s Judiciary and Administration committee passed an amended version of the ordinance on August 30th, specifying the ban will only apply to state or federally-licensed medical or mental health professionals. The ban applies to experts practicing on anyone under the age of 18.

It adds that if a licensed professional violates the ban, the city will refer that person to Wisconsin’s Department of Safety and Professional Services for investigation and action the state agency deems appropriate.

During Thursday night’s meeting, multiple council members stated they believe such an ordinance is not in the realm of city government and should be handled at the county or state level instead.

Others say the ordinance exists because La Crosse taxpayers went to their city government officials asking for help.

The threat of a lawsuit from the conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, or WILL, was also discussed moments before the vote.

“It’s been made clear by WILL that this is going to happen,” said District 9 Councilmember Chris Woodard. “I want to apologize to La Crosse taxpayers that if this passes, we’re going to be funding such a hopeless crusade.”

Other council members, like District 7’s Mac Kiel, say the threat of a lawsuit is not enough for them to vote down the ordinance.

“I do not want us to be scared away because we might be sued, because we’re looking out for the best interests for the people who live in this city,” said Kiel.

Eight council members voted for the ordinance, four voted against it, and one council member abstained.

In order for the full ordinance to take effect, Mayor Mitch Reynolds needs to sign the ordinance into law, and officially publish it.