Waterloo City Council prohibits conversion therapy; Rep. Salmon says ban violates ‘parents’ rights’

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Drag kings and queens perform at the 51st Iowa City Pride. – Adria Carpenter/Little Village

This week, Waterloo became the second city in Iowa to ban conversion therapy. The city council voted 6-1 to adopt an ordinance prohibiting “any medical or mental health professional” from “provid[ing] or advertis[ing] sexual orientation or gender change identity efforts to a minor, regardless of whether the provider receives compensation for such services.”

“Conversion therapy, also known as sexual orientation change efforts or reparative therapy, is a widely discredited practice,” Councilmember Jonathan Grieder, who proposed the ordinance, said after the vote. “Tonight, the Waterloo City Council firmly declared that hate has no home here.”

Councilmember Dave Boeson said his vote against the ordinance was “not based on one side’s ideology,” but on his belief the city council was exceeding its authority.

“I believe it will be challenged in court and it’s not in the City Council’s purview to enact this ordinance,” he said.

Davenport passed a similar ordinance in 2020, and the Linn County Board of Supervisors instituted a ban on conversion therapy in unincorporated parts of the county last year. Neither has been challenged in court.

Last month, Minnesota became the latest state to ban conversion therapy. Twenty other states have passed bans or laws severely restricting the practice, as have the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. According to the Human Rights Campaign, “at least 70 cities and counties” around the country have ordinances against it.

Waterloo’s new ordinance allows reports about possible violations to be filed with the city attorney or the executive director of Waterloo’s Human Rights Commission.

“If it is validated, the Human Rights Commission will send a letter to the State Licensing Board,” Mayor Quentin Hart explained during the city council meeting.

More than 30 people attended the meeting on Monday to speak on the ordinance, including State Sen. Sandy Salmon. Salmon, a Republican from Janesville, is among the most conservative members of the legislature and has been a strong supporter of every anti-LGBTQ proposal that’s been introduced in the legislature since she was first elected to the Iowa House a decade ago.

Iowa Rep. Sandy Salmon with Mike Lindell during his Cyber Symposium in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, August 2021. — from Sandy Salmon’s newsletter

Salmon’s district does not cover any of Waterloo or any part of Black Hawk County, but said she wanted to speak against the ordinance because many of her constituents come to Waterloo for health care.

Salmon, among the strongest supporters of the ban passed this year on gender-affirming care for transgender Iowans under 18 — care which already required the approval of a young person’s parents or guardian — said the city’s ordinance was unfair because it violates “parents’ rights.”

“Families ought to be able to choose counseling that best fits the goal they have for their minor child,” Salmon said.

The senator also objected to a resolution of support LGBTQ Waterloo residents passed unanimously by the council earlier in the meeting that criticized the Iowa Legislature for passing bills that threaten “the rights of LGBTQ+ Iowans.”

Salmon said she “totally reject[s] that notion and that characterization of the legislation.”

“I don’t believe that to be the case,” she said.

According to the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier, “The council chambers erupted in laughter.”