Berkley to become 3rd Oakland County city to ban ‘conversion therapy’

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published December 3, 2019

BERKLEY — Berkley is on its way to becoming the third city in the Woodward Talk’s coverage area to ban “conversion therapy.”

Following in the footsteps of Huntington Woods and Ferndale, the Berkley City Council held the first reading of an ordinance to prohibit the practice of so-called conversion therapy at its Nov. 18 meeting. The scientifically discredited practice attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity through physical or psychological means.

The ordinance was brought to Berkley after the council received a “passionate email” from one of its residents, according to City Manager Matt Baumgarten.

Councilwoman Natalie Price said she hopes the passage of this ordinance shows the rest of Berkley’s surrounding communities that they are safe and inclusive.

“I see this as a message to our community and from our community out to our region (that) we are a safe and inclusive space, and that message benefits every resident in our community,” she said.

Earlier this year, Huntington Woods became the first Michigan city to ban “conversion therapy.” It was followed by East Lansing and Ferndale, which passed the ordinance in October. Similar legislation was introduced in the Michigan Senate and House in April, but it has not been voted on.

State Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak, was the primary sponsor of the Senate bill. She said that there are “elevated levels of anxiety, depression and suicide” in the LGBTQ community, but when young people are put through “conversion therapy,” the suicide rate is three times as likely.

“It’s been a challenge in the state Legislature to move this,” she said. “We have seen some local municipalities throughout the state take this up. … I’m grateful that it is being taken up. It’s really, really hard when we do get calls, particularly from younger residents who have attempted suicide … and are just reaching out, begging us to do something.”

Mayor Dan Terbrack said that passing this ordinance is a sign from Berkley and the other cities to the state Legislature that it, too, should have a vote.

“If more municipalities do begin to make, pass ordinances like we are right now, the state is going to have to, hopefully, take notice of that and make … some changes at the state level,” he said.

The second reading of the ordinance was held at the Berkley City Council’s Dec. 2 meeting, which occurred after the Talk went to print.