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Louisville, Kentucky, has finally banned conversion therapy, but the practice is still legal in over half the US

Louisville pride 2019 Louisville pride 2019
Atmosphere during the 2019 Kentuckiana Pride Festival and Parade at Big Four Lawn at Waterfront Park on June 14, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Stephen J. Cohen / Getty Images

Louisville, Kentucky, has become the latest US city to ban conversion therapy.

The Louisville Metro Council voted 24 to 1 in favor of outlawing LGBTQ conversion therapy on minors in Kentucky's largest city on September 17, reported the Louisville Courier Journal. 

Conversion therapy, commonly referred to as reparative therapy, is the practice of trying to change someone's gender identity or sexuality by using shame, physical pain, and emotionally traumatic methods that have been compared to torture by mental health professionals. 

Louisville is the second city in Kentucky to ban the practice after Covington and among a growing number of cities moving to abolish conversion therapy for those under the age of 18.

The Trevor Project has reported LGBTQ youth who go through conversion therapy are more likely to need mental health treatment, have higher rates of depression and anxiety, and are more likely to attempt suicide. 

"It is impossible to imagine any other practice associated with such high rates of suicide and other dangers that would still be allowed," Kentucky State Representative Lisa Willner said during the council meeting.

Despite this, only 20 out of 50 US states — including Kentucky — currently outlaw conversion therapy.

Within the states with no mandated ban against the practice, about 66 cities including Miami, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Philadelphia have taken matters in their own hands and banned conversion therapy. 

Conversion therapy is linked to worse mental health outcomes and higher rates of suicide 

A 2018 study published by UCLA's School of Law Williams Institute found an estimated 698,000 adults in the US have gone through conversion therapy. 

Those who go through conversion therapy are subjected to traumatic practices, like verbal abuse, induced vomiting, and electroshock treatment, to associate their queerness with pain. 

A Trevor Project study released in June 2020 is the first study to look at the impacts of conversion therapy on queer youth. It only affirmed previous guidance from mental health officials that conversion therapy is a clear risk factor for suicide. 

It found low-income LGBTQ youth, Latinx youth, youth in the South, and transgender and nonbinary youth were particularly at risk for undergoing conversion therapy. 

"It is in the best interest of public health for lawmakers to enact protections for LGBTQ young people against this dangerous practice and to increase access to LGBTQ-affirming mental health care," Amy E. Green, director of research at The Trevor Project, said in a statement to Insider. 

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