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Akron could impose penalties for those who flout restrictions on conversion therapy for minors

Akron’s ordinance banning conversion therapy on minors could soon be amended to include a path to prosecute violators.

But first, Akron Mayor Shammas Malik’s administration wants to discuss the proposed change with community organizations that supported the original ordinance. The City Council had planned to vote on adopting the amendment at Monday night’s meeting, but waited for Malik’s request to allow groups to vote on it.

A 2022 Akron ordinance made it illegal to perform the therapy — counseling aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity — on a minor. But the rule has no enforcement mechanism. The amendment seeks to criminalize the practice by classifying it as a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $1,500.

As originally written, the ordinance grants the Akron Civil Rights Commission the “authority to investigate and consider complaints alleging a violation of this chapter and may establish rules and procedures to receive, initiate, investigate, and to issue orders and penalties against complaints of violations of this chapter.”

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In an emailed statement, city spokeswoman Stephanie Marsh wrote: “We have placed the legislation back in the (City Council) committee to provide the administration additional time to connect with various invested LGBTQ+ organizations and hear their feedback on the proposed change in enforcement. We will provide updates as we have additional information.”

City Council President Margo Sommerville asked Nanette Pitt, Malik’s chief strategy officer, on Monday why the mayor wanted to pause the process after introducing the topic at last week’s council meeting.

Pitt responded that she and Sommerville received an email earlier in the day from community groups interested in further discussing the legislation.

Pitt said the requested additional time will allow city officials “to interact with public groups and talk more about the legislation itself.”

According to the ordinance, the practice of conversion therapy has been condemned by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Counseling Association and the American Medical Association.

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The legislation states that conversion therapy practitioners “operate under the erroneous assumption that non-heterosexual, non-cisgender identities are mental disorders and that sexual orientation and gender identity can and should be changed.”

It further states that practitioners “often use aversive conditioning, which involves the use of electric shocks, withholding food and fluids, smelling salts, and chemically induced nausea,” and mentions the use of such techniques in attempts to increase a person’s sexual Changing one’s orientation is a violation of ethical codes. of the American Psychological and Psychiatric Associations.

Contact reporter Derek Kreider at DKreider@Gannett.com or 330-541-9413

This article originally appeared in the Akron Beacon Journal: Akron Mayor Shammas Malik Seeks to Change City’s Ban on Conversion Therapy

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