The Morgantown City Council is currently considering a ban on conversion therapy, the pseudoscientific practice of attempting to change someone’s sexuality that has been widely discredited by medical professionals.
With the council expected to vote on the ban next week, one Morgantown pastor is speaking out in favor of the legislation.
“What we can and should be doing is advocating for just and good policies that promote the common good, especially when we have LGBTQ members and we want to make sure that we are a part of movements that protect those most vulnerable people,” Rev. Zac Morton of First Presbyterian Church said in an interview. “I can’t think of many more vulnerable folks other than our LGBTQ youth here in Appalachia.”
He also attended a recent council meeting to express his church’s feelings on the bill.
“As a representative of my church and the congregation that I serve that we certainly support and encourage you to move the bill forward to a first read,” Morton said
The bill did get pushed to a first reading and passed unanimously 7-0.
Morgantown would become the second city in West Virginia to ban conversion therapy. Charleston passed similar legislation in August banning the use of the practice on minors.
Morton has already been active in advocating to ban conversion therapy. He worked with “50 Bills 50 States,” an organization that wants to get bills banning conversion therapy passed in all 50 states.
Morton says that First Presbyterian Church is an “open and affirming congregation,” and has members of the LGBTQ community in leadership roles within the church.
About 10 years ago, First Presbyterian Church adopted an affirming mission statement which reflects their purpose and goals as a church. Soon after that, they publicly announced that they were open and affirming to LGBTQ individuals.
First Presbyterian Church has been active in community efforts to support the LGBTQ community. They have partnered with various organizations with similar interests, such as Morgantown Pride, Fairness West Virginia, and the WVU LGBTQ Center.
Morton emphasized the church’s efforts to make sure LGBTQ members feel included and supported.
“Every church will say that everyone is welcome, but not every church kind of really means that, you know, without placing some sort of pressure to change or to shame folks,” Morton said.
Morton said that much harm has been done by religious organizations toward LGBTQ individuals, but he hopes to help work against that trend.
“Our church is open and affirming because of who we understand Jesus to be,” Morton said.
A vote on final approval for the bill is expected to take place on Oct. 19.