La Crosse Common Council will revisit conversion therapy ban in 60 days

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — The ban on conversion therapy will remain in the City of La Crosse for now. Early this evening, members of the Common Council went into a closed session over the city’s conversion therapy ban ordinance.

One hour later, council members returned and decided to revisit the ordinance in 60 days.

Mayor Mitch Reynolds says the ban was called into reconsideration because of language that would open the city to legal repercussions.

“The original legislation had for a fee in the legislation and the recommendation from our legal department was to reinsert that,” Mayor Reynolds said.

Originally, those who conducted conversion therapy would be have to be compensated, making the act illegal.

Shannon McKinney, co-founder of Save Your Rights Coalition La Crosse, says the ordinance should be reconsidered for constitutional reasons.

“It targeted those people for their religious beliefs,” McKinney said.

She says the ban infringes on people’s freedom of religion.

“A pastor can’t pastor a child that perhaps a parent has sent their way according to his religious beliefs. Obviously the church has firmly held religious beliefs, it’s going to practice that, it’s going to teach that,” she said.

McKinney says if the ban is not lifted, the group may seek legal action. Alesha Schandelmeier, the executive director for The Center: 7 Rivers LGTBQ Connection says the ordinance protects all children.

“Conversion therapy is inaccurate and can be a very violent, mentally damaging process,” Schandelmeier said.

Constitutional law expert and University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Howard Schweber says while parents rights have been historically protected by courts, religious freedom does not apply in cases of abuse.

“Where courts find what parents want to do to would be harmful to the child, then the fact that its motivated by religion is not a protection. The states interests in protecting the children from harm trumps parents — or anyone else’s for that matter — interest in free exercise of religion,” he said.

Schweber says conversion therapy has not been around long enough for clear legal decisions to be made.

“Conversion therapy just hasn’t been around that long and for that matter, state responses to conversion therapy have not been around that long,” he said.

In the meantime, Mayor Reynolds says anything can be added or removed from the ordinance during the 60 day wait period.

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