December 5, 2018 at 8:20 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
D.C. Council approves 3 pro-LGBT measures
conversion therapy, Mary Cheh, gay news, Washington Blade

Council member Mary Cheh’s bill calls for banning licensed mental health practitioners from ‘engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with a consumer for whom a conservator or guardian has been appointed.’ (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Council on Tuesday gave final approval for one LGBT supportive bill and preliminary approval to another in addition to passing a “Sense of the Council” resolution supporting the transgender community in response to the Trump administration’s recent anti-trans policies.

The Council also voted 12 to 0 to confirm D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s nomination of gay activist and former association CEO Peter Rosenstein to the five-member board of the D.C. Office of Employee Appeals. The office serves as an independent city agency that adjudicates appeals by D.C. government employees of adverse personnel actions such as firings, demotions or suspensions.

Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large) recused herself from voting on the Rosenstein conformation resolution on grounds that Rosenstein endorsed her re-election bid in the November election and her vote on his confirmation could be viewed as a possible conflict of interest.

In its action on one of the two LGBT supportive bills, the Council gave final approval in a unanimous “second reading” vote for the Conversion Therapy for Consumers Under a Conservatorship or Guardianship Amendment Act of 2018.

The bill, introduced by Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), calls for banning licensed mental health practitioners from “engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with a consumer for whom a conservator or guardian has been appointed.”

The bill is needed because “an individual whose medical decisions are made by a guardian or conservator is in a dependent status and could be subject to conversion therapy against their will,” according to testimony in support of the bill earlier this year by Dr. Marc E. Dalton, Chief Clinical Officer at the D.C. Department of Behavioral Health.

Dalton and other witnesses supporting the bill pointed out that all mainline U.S. professional medical and mental health organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association, oppose conversion therapy on grounds that it is ineffective and has been found to greatly increase the risk of depression, guilt, shame, substance abuse and suicide among those who undergo the so-called therapy.

Bowser was expected to sign the measure, which would send it to Capitol Hill for a required 30 legislative day review by Congress that all D.C. legislation must undergo.

Its approval on Tuesday came four years after the Council passed the Conversion Therapy for Minors Prohibition Act of 2014, which bans licensed mental health professionals from performing “therapy” to change the sexual orientation of people under the age of 18 from gay to straight. That measure became law in March 2015 after clearing its congressional review.

In its Tuesday session the Council also voted unanimously in a “first reading” vote to give preliminary approval for the LGBTQ Health Data Collection Amendment Act of 2018.

The bill, introduced jointly by all 13 Council members in June, requires the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education to arrange for high school and some middle school students in the city’s public school and public charter school system to take an annual survey developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention known as the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System.

The bill calls for public school system officials to include questions in the confidential survey questionnaire that ask about the students’ sexual orientation and gender identity.

The bill also requires the city’s Department of Health to participate in a separate CDC national survey, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and to include questions related to the sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression of respondents in the survey’s questionnaire.

In addition, the legislation requires DOH to collaborate with the city’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs on an annual LGBTQ health report.

DOH and D.C. public schools officials have said the two agencies have already included LGBT-related questions in the two CDC sponsored surveys. But a report on the bill released by the Council’s Committee on Education notes that the school system and DOH have not included LGBT-related questions in the surveys consistently each year or each time they have been administered.

D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At-Large), who serves as chair of the Council’s Education Committee, said the legislation is also needed to ensure that the city retains LGBT-related questions in the surveys in the event that the Trump administration pressures the CDC to omit such questions.

The bill is expected to come up for a second and final vote before the D.C. Council later this month.

The third LGBT measure approved by the Council on Tuesday, the “Sense of the Council in Support of Transgender, Intersex, and Gender Non-Conforming Communities Resolution of 2018,” also passed by unanimous voice vote.

Grosso, who introduced the resolution along with nine of his Council colleagues, said it was aimed at putting the city on record in strong opposition to the recent Trump administration policy declaring that for purposes of federal government actions, a person’s gender would be defined as their gender assigned at birth.

Transgender and LGBT rights organizations immediately denounced the policy as an attempt to “erase” transgender people from existence for purposes of federal civil rights protections.

The resolution cites a New York Times article in October reporting that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was “leading an effort at the federal level to publish new regulations that would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person was born with, in an effort to exclude transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming people from civil rights protections under federal law.”

The resolution notes that the Times article reported Trump administration officials were pushing for the Departments of Justice, Education, and Labor to adopt this definition in their regulations.

The resolution notes that D.C. has adopted a wide range of policies, regulations, and laws, including the D.C. Human Rights Act, that protect transgender and gender non-conforming people from discrimination. The protections include allowing transgender people to use public facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

It points out that in the many years since D.C. law has allowed transgender people to use “the appropriate sex-segregated spaces including bathrooms and locker rooms, there has been no evidence of any increase in incidents of concern to public safety.”

The resolution adds, “We stand with our community members who are transgender, intersex, or gender non-conforming against efforts to deny their existence or humanity. We reject any attempt to redefine sex or otherwise reinterpret or decline to enforce laws to the detriment of transgender, intersex, or gender non-conforming individuals.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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