Ban on gay conversion therapy passed by St. Louis Aldermanic committee

Opponents of conversion therapy warn that even "talk therapy" can harm patients psychologically, making them feel condemned for their sexual orientation.

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November 13, 2019 - 5:17 pm
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ST. LOUIS (KFTK) - A local minister who says he "walked away from homosexuality" defends conversion therapy, while others warn aldermen the practic is "barbaric" and should be banned for minors.

The Reverend Jim Venice (photo above) spoke before the Public Health Committee of the Board of Aldermen, claiming he used to be gay, but is now married 33 years with adult children, and helps others exit the gay lifestyle.

"It does work and it worked for me, and I've used those same concepts and principles to help hundreds of other men and women walk away from homosexuality," Venice said.

Others at the hearing spoke out against conversion therapy.

Jill Aul is the President of PFLAG, a support group for parents of LGBTQ children.

"I'm friends with someone who's 69 years old," Aul said, "When he was 12 years old in the summer of 1962, this man had electrical shock therapy on his genitals. He was shown photographs. Every time he was shown a photograph of an exposed man he got such severe electric shock."

Dr. James Croft of the Ethical Society of St. Louis told a similar story.

"Mainly, I'm here for my friend Sam who was forced into conversion therapy when he was a child by his parents who didn't like the fact that he was gay," Croft said, "He underwent the most appalling torture that you can imagine, including electro shock therapy."

Venice says currently he knows of no one undergoing electrical shock therapy, and that in his practice he uses only "talk therapy."

"Change is possible and I want to protect the rights of minors and their parents and professional mental healthcare providers to be able to present that alternative to the gay lifestyle," Venice said.

Opponents of conversion therapy warn that even "talk therapy" can harm patients psychologically, making them feel condemned for their sexual orientation.

The ban, as it passed out of committee, would not apply to therapists in the city who are "religiously affiliated" because of federal protections.

Even so, the Reverend Harold Hendrick says it's important to try to stop the bill.

"You know, gambling was going to be riverboats on the river, and now it's everywhere and people are being ruined routinely," Hendrick said, "So, biblically, we oppose it."

The bill now moves onto the full board of aldermen for more debate.

This story was originally posted by our partner station, KMOX.

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