Lincoln bans conversion therapy, Nebraska may follow suit

March 8, 2021

The Lincoln city council voted five to one last week to ban conversion therapy for LGBT+ youth. Conversion therapy is defined as the practice of attempting to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity through counseling.  

The ordinance, which was introduced by city council member James Bowers, makes Lincoln the first and only city in Nebraska to place limits on the practice. 

Several people who have experienced conversion therapy came to the ordinance’s hearing to share about the lasting negative effects conversion therapy has had on their lives. One survivor, Trevor Obermueller, told the Lincoln Journal Star that while he was in conversion therapy for five years, “Life honestly felt like torture.”  

Conversion therapy is widely discredited as ineffective and pseudoscientific by the medical community. According to the American Medical Association, the practice relies on the assumption that homosexuality and transgender identities are mental disorders which can be changed, an idea that the AMA says is not based in medical or scientific research. 

In addition to the city ordinance, there has also been a growing state-wide push for a conversion therapy ban. This year, state senator Megan Hunt introduced LB231, a bill which would “prohibit health care professionals from practicing conversion therapy on minors in Nebraska,” according to its statement of intent. If LB231 passes, Nebraska would join twenty other states in prohibiting conversion therapy. 

According to Hunt, banning conversion therapy in such a conservative legislature has been an uphill battle. In fact, this is the third year in a row that legislation has been introduced to stop the practice. In both 2019 and 2020 the bill did not pass.  

But Hunt, who herself is Nebraska’s first out LGBT+ senator, isn’t giving up on the bill anytime soon. According to her, “What we need to be doing in Nebraska is sending a clear message that being LGBT+ is not an illness or disorder, and that we don’t need to be cured. 

The main organization campaigning against banning conversion therapy has been Nebraska Family Alliance. The group claims that prohibiting the practice would be a violation of free speech. In response to this idea, Hunt said, “We regulate medicine in Nebraska, we regulate what treatments you can give to patients and what you can say to them as a medical professional. Conversion therapy is no different. 

Hunt encourages teens and students who feel strongly about banning conversion to engage with the legislature by reaching out to their representative to share their thoughts.  

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