An Iowa city has voted to repeal a local ordinance banning the practice of therapy aimed at changing the sexual orientation of minors, following the threat of First Amendment legal action.
The Waterloo City Council voted 4-3 at a meeting on Monday night to repeal Ordinance 5701, also known as “Article C, Unfair Practices – Conversion Therapy,” which had been adopted in May.
During public comment, Chad Mohammed, a licensed therapist and LGBT activist, spoke to the council and argued that “there was something very troubling happening” and called the effort to repeal the ordinance “a terrorist attack.”
Local resident Karen Johnson argued in favor of the repeal, saying that parents should be able to “care for and raise and nurture their children within their family the way they want their family to be nurtured and raised.”
She believes that when “those young people get out and are old enough to make their own decisions” on matters, “then that is their individual right to do so.”
Members of the LGBT community also attended to denounce the ordinance’s repeal, arguing that doing so threatened the safety of young people who trans identify or are gay.
Council member Jonathan Grieder, who voted against repeal, said that he had gotten 286 messages about the ordinance, of which only one person supported repealing the measure.
Council member Rob Nichols, who voted in favor of repeal, said that there would still be accountability measures for therapists practicing conversion therapy.
“To say that the removing of this ban takes away the main thrust of our ordinance in the first place is not completely true,” said Nichols.
A couple of speakers at the meeting expressed concern about how the initial meeting about the ordinance and the decision to repeal it came during a closed city council session.
Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart said that the council was within its rights to hold a closed meeting regarding the issue, as such meetings are permitted when discussing threats of litigation.
The decision to repeal the ordinance came in response to a complaint letter from the Liberty Counsel, a national law firm dedicated to First Amendment rights. The legal group contacted the city after residents notified them of the ban.
The letter, sent to council members on June 30, argued that the ordinance “bans protected speech” and “is offensive to the First Amendment.”
“The Ordinance constitutes a ban on protected speech and further imposes a penalty upon those who wish to exercise their First Amendment rights in their professional practice,” stated the letter.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said in a statement on Monday that “Waterloo made a wise decision to repeal their unconstitutional ordinance.”
“The First Amendment affords counselors and clients the freedom to choose the counsel of their choice free of political censorship,” stated Staver.
“With these laws out of the way, minors who are struggling with gender confusion are able to get the help they need from licensed counselors.”
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