Morgantown City Hall hosted a larger crowd than usual Tuesday night when residents showed up to watch and support a proposal from the Human Rights Commission to ban conversion therapy.
The meeting was informal in that no official action was taken, rather, council members were given the space to ask questions and offer policy options for the topics on the meeting agenda. There was also an open-mic portion, where members of the public were given an opportunity to express their thoughts on the discussion.
If Morgantown leaders introduce and pass a ban on conversion therapy, the city will be the second municipality in the state to do so. The Charleston City Council voted to ban conversion therapy in the state’s capitol last month.
“We need to protect our queer youth. That’s the reality of this,” said Morgantown Human Rights spokesperson Ash Orr during the opening remarks. “Passing this ordinance in Morgantown will show that we as a community care for our queer youth and want to protect them to the best of our abilities.”
Orr cited a number of studies and surveys illustrating the negative connotations associated with conversion therapy and the effect it has mentally.
Orr said a study done by the UCLA Williams Institute found that just under 700,000 people who identify as LGTBQ+ claimed to have undergone some sort of conversion methods at some point.
Conversion therapy has been a hot button issue in recent years, with a majority of the country’s most accredited health organizations denouncing the legitimacy of conversion methods. Though the practice is still commonplace in the United States, 30 states have yet to enact legislation against the custom.
“This isn’t just about LGBTQ conversion therapy in city limits. It’s a bold stand that Morgantown will not support hate, and that all its residents' matter,” said Morgantown native Paul Miller in a compelling testimony. “We have an opportunity to lead the way and be a beacon of hope, not just for Morgantown, but for our entire state.”
In addition to the Human Rights Commission presenting their case, spokesperson Orr revealed plans for the organization to host a public documentary viewing to help educate the public on issues associated with conversion therapy. Though they expressed intent to host this in the near future, no specific date or location has been decided.
Following the discussion of conversion therapy, the Morgantown Public Library director Sarah Pelfrey held a presentation highlighting some of the digital advancements made by the library system over the last year. These include new features such as digital books, book deliveries, online storytelling streams and other initiatives aimed towards getting the youth of Morgantown involved in reading.
The council portion of the meeting concluded with a Housing Code Ordinance, where Fire Marshal Ken Tennant and Chief Building Official Amy Fairbanks gave updates on the latest housing and safety code adjustments.
The Morgantown City Council is scheduled to reconvene next Tuesday, Sept. 7. The Council does intend on hosting the meeting in person at City Hall.
All meetings are locally broadcast live on the city’s Government Access Channel, and are open to the public.