Atlanta calls on state to ban ‘dangerous’ conversion therapy

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the Atlanta City Council sent a message to the state: end conversion therapy and the “persecution and suffering” it brings to LGBTQ Georgians.

Bottoms (top photo) introduced a resolution in opposition to the practice, and the City Council passed it unanimously on Monday.

"The City of Atlanta hereby declares its unequivocal opposition to the practice of conversion therapy, defined as any practices or treatments that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender," the resolution said.

The resolution asked the state and several state governing boards to put regulations in place banning “the practice and advertising” of conversion therapy in Georgia. The boards include the Georgia Composite Board of Professional Counselors, Social Workers & Marriage and Family Therapists; the Georgia Board of Nursing; the Georgia Composite Medical Board; and the State Board of Examiners of Psychologists.

Bottoms said that conversion therapy endangers the well-being of LGBTQ people across the state.

“The passage of this resolution sends a clear message that the City of Atlanta will always stand for equality and human dignity — regardless of who you are or who you love,” she said in a press release. “State-sanctioned practices that inflict persecution and suffering on LGBTQ individuals — particularly young people — should end immediately.”

“Simply put — we cannot and should not endanger the well-being of the LGBTQ community for living their truth. This administration and the city respectfully call on our state partners to join us on the right side of history,” she added.

State Rep. Matthew Wilson, a Democrat from Brookhaven and one of the five openly LGBTQ members of the legislature, introduced a bill banning conversion therapy for minors in Georgia in March. He said he was “heartened” by Atlanta’s action on the resolution.

"I agree with Mayor Bottoms and the City Council that we must protect our LGBTQ youth from this incredibly harmful practice that is already rejected by every major medical association,” Wilson told Project Q Atlanta. “That's why I'm proud to have introduced HB 580 this year and look forward to working with my Republican colleagues to get it passed in a bipartisan manner."

Lawmakers vetted HB 580 in a hearing in March, the first time such a bill had ever received a hearing in the Georgia legislature. The bill will return for the 2020 legislative session.

The major medical organizations who oppose conversion therapy include the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, American Counseling Association, American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American School Counselor Association and the National Association of Social Workers.

Bottoms has routinely weighed in on LGBTQ matters since taking office in 2018. She appointed an LGBTQ liaison and created an LGBTQ advisory board last May, held a reception at City Hall to celebrate Atlanta Pride last October, criticized President Donald Trump's transgender erasure and ban on transgender troops, honored the Armorettes in January and invited a snubbed drag queen to read to children at City Hall earlier this month.