(The Center Square) – There’s now a threat of a lawsuit over La Crosse’s recent ban on conversion therapy.
The city council approved an ordinance in June that banned churches, ministers, or counselors from talking to young people about their sexual identity and gender.
The ordinance specifically bans “any practices or treatments offered or rendered to consumers, including psychological counseling, that seeks [sic] to change a person’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.”
Gay and lesbian groups say conversion therapy is harmful to young gay people.
But the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty said in a letter to La Crosse leaders that no one has proven that assertion yet.
“The City has completely failed to demonstrate that banning counselors, ministers, and parents from suggesting that a child not immediately ‘change’ his or her ‘gender identity’ or ‘gender expressions’ will in fact harm the health or safety of the child,” the WILL letter stated.
WILL President Rick Esenberg said La Crosse’s ordinance violates First Amendment protections for freedom of speech, and is both too broad and too one-sided.
“The City’s ordinance is clearly content-based and even discriminates against disfavored viewpoints. For example, counseling aimed at ‘chang[ing] behaviors or gender expressions’ is made illegal whereas counseling that ‘provides assistance to a person undergoing gender transition, or counseling that provides acceptance, support, and understanding of a person or facilitates a person’s coping, social support, and identity exploration and development’ is permitted,” Esenberg noted in WILL’s letter.
Esenberg said it’s not the job of a local government to pick sides, and then use the power of the government to force people to think a certain way about sex, sexual identity, and gender.
“We need not doubt the City’s good intentions. But the City’s foray into the sphere of censorship was ill-considered and poorly executed and is not salvageable,” Esenberg wrote in WILL’s letter.
La Crosse’ city council pulled the ordinance back last month to try and rework it, but Esenberg said even an updated version won’t survive a legal challenge.
There’s no word when the La Crosse council may vote again on its plan.