By Associated Press - Wednesday, April 21, 2021

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Lawrence will no longer allow licensed providers to practice conversion therapy on minors in the city.

The city commission voted unanimously Tuesday night to ban the practice, which is designed to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Commissioners said research has shown the practice is harmful to children’s mental health and increases the risk of suicide, The Lawrence Journal-World reported.

“The very most basic thing that we have to do is to protect each other and to protect children, and I feel that this does that,” said Vice Mayor Courtney Shipley, who originally proposed the ban.

Assistant City Attorney Maria Garcia previously told the commission that 20 states and numerous municipalities, including Roeland Park in suburban Kansas City, have banned conversion therapy.

Barry Foster, senior pastor at First Christian Church, raised concerns in a letter that the ordinance violated religious and other freedoms.

Garcia said the ban applies only to licensed counselors, not clergy or religious figures who counsel children without a license.

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