Conversion Therapy Banned in Athens

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ATHENS  – Athens City Council members unanimously approved the ban of conversion therapy within the city limits Monday night at their regular meeting.

“(Athens is) a city full of love and tolerance, inclusiveness and community,” said Councilmember Chris Fahl before the measure was approved. “This was brought forth by people who wanted to see change. That’s the essence of democracy.”

The ordinance, which was approved and given a round of applause, changes a piece of the city code to prohibit “efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity with a minor,” according to the language presented to the council.

The ordinance was introduced in June, when several leaders from the LGBTQ+ community spoke on its behalf. Ohio University LGBT Center director delfin bautista spoke about their own experience with conversion therapy, and a member of the Kim Welter of the statewide activist group Equality Ohio urged the need for Ohio’s children to be protected under the ban.

City council decided to go forward with the measure proactively, Fahl said during a previous meeting’s discussion about the ban. Joining with the other five cities in Ohio that have banned the practice was a step toward making the practice illegal nationwide, Fahl said.

The vote on the ban came immediately after Mayor Steve Patterson made a statement about the recent events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia. An Ohio man is accused of driving a car into a crowd of people who were protesting the presence of white nationalists, who were there themselves to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. One of the nearly two dozen injured was Bill Burke, of Hockingport.

“I want to emphasize that everyone is welcome here in Athens, and the city is proud of our diversity,” Patterson said. “We can not let the hate and bigotry seen in Charlottesville set the tone for the future, because we are all human beings, we are all better than this.”

Also at last night’s meeting, a pilot program to create a residential parking permit program was approved.

“We have many homes, many people here who signed a petition…(who said) they have no parking,” said Councilmember Michelle Papai, who introduced the ordinance.

The ordinance states that if a property owner has no parking or only one parking spot, they may be eligible for a $25 parking permit which allows street parking for 72 hours.