Coinciding with National Coming Out Day Oct. 11, the Brooklyn Park Human Rights Commission recommended the City Council consider banning LGBTQ conversion therapy and creating a domestic partnership registry.

The council was supportive of both concepts.

While no specific ordinance language has yet been proposed, the conversion therapy ban would prohibit conversion therapy on minors and vulnerable adults. Brooklyn Park would join at least eight other cities in the state in banning the practice.

The provision would be enforced through a fee or fine set by the council or the city’s administration. However, the city would not attempt to bring criminal sanctions against those found to violate the ban.

“By avoiding the criminal penalty route, we could potentially save youth from having to revisit that trauma in a courtroom setting,” said Thomas Brooks, Human Rights Commissioner. Brooks also serves on the Osseo Area School Board.

Studies have found that minors subjected to conversion therapy have higher rates of suicide, depression, substance abuse and anxiety, Brooks said. Nearly all – if not all – medical and mental health associations have denounced conversion therapy as ineffective and harmful, he said.

While approximately 80% of conversion therapy cases happen in a religious context or through a spiritual adviser, the provision would need to include a religious exemption, according to Brooks.

In cases where conversion therapy is found to be practiced by a state-licensed medical or health professional, the city would provide its findings to any applicable state licensing board.

The commission also recommended that the city add a request for a statewide ban on conversion therapy to its legislative agenda.

Cities that have banned conversion therapy include Duluth, Bloomington, Minneapolis, Robbinsdale, Red Wing, St. Paul, West St. Paul, and Winona.

Councilmember Terry Parks said that he “would advocate that we go to a statewide (conversion therapy) ban. I think that’s going to be very important and I think with a town this big, I think we have a lot of say in that.”

Similarly, a new domestic partnership registry would provide the means to document a committed relationship between two consenting adults that are unmarried and share living quarters.

The registry would not provide these couples with any special city benefits. However, the registry could be used to provide proof of a relationship, potentially making couples eligible for employer or other health insurance benefits.

Those looking to join the registry would likely be charged a small a fee and would file their documents with the city clerk’s office.

This style registry has been implemented in 19 other cities in Minnesota.

Such a registry would recognize and acknowledge families of all types, and would promote stable and committed family structures, Brooks said.

The proposals “deserve us really looking into it and seeing what we can do,” Councilmember Susan Pha said.

“I truly support this,” said Councilmember Tonja West-Hafner. “Anything that can support our families and our youth to be who they’re going to be is super important to me, because we just need to accept everybody for who they are and how they want to live their life.”

Councilmember Wynfred Russell said he supported the policies, but could see an issue with enforcing the conversion ban as it was proposed. With such a diverse city, there could be an issue with cultural expectations between foreign-born residents and western understandings of conversion therapy, he said.

The city ought to provide education to the city’s numerous religious institutions about the harmful impact conversion therapy can have on a community, he said.

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