Therapy intended to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a child is illegal in Eau Claire following a City Council vote.
The council voted 9-0 — Councilman Michael Xiong was absent — Tuesday afternoon to ban the use of conversion therapy on children in Eau Claire.
Councilwoman Jill Christopherson said she received more than 70 messages in addition to 10 people who spoke at a Monday night public hearing about the conversion therapy ban.
“For every one against, there were three in support of this ban,” she said.
Opponents at Monday night’s public hearing contended that the ban would restrict free speech and religious rights, but Councilwoman Kate Beaton said Eau Claire’s ordinance was modeled after those in use in Madison, Milwaukee and 16 states, which have withstood challenges in court.
“What we’re talking about here is not infringement on parental or First Amendment rights,” said Beaton, a sponsor of the ban. “What we’re talking about here is child abuse. Conversion therapy is child abuse.”
Acting council President Andrew Werthmann said while it may not be apparent because conversion therapy is done in private, it has happened in Eau Claire.
“It has real consequences,” he said. “It is a real problem we’re addressing.”
Councilwoman Catherine Emmanuelle said a constituent who had been through conversion therapy contacted the council to tell her story.
The ordinance makes it illegal for anyone to practice conversion therapy with minors, making them liable to fines ranging from $500 to $1,000 for each violation.
Also in a unanimous 9-0 vote Tuesday, the council approved an ordinance dealing with public excessive intoxication.
Councilwoman Catherine Emmanuelle has lived in the Randall Park neighborhood for about 14 years and notes that the area has its issues with drinking.
“It has been exhausting at many times mostly because of behavior that accompanies excessive intoxication,” she said.
But she felt adopting the excessive intoxication ordinance is part of a “new chapter” for the community.
The new city law was the product of months of meetings that refined a proposal made in late winter to change the city’s public good order ordinance.
The adopted law makes it illegal for people to be excessively intoxicated in public from either alcohol or drug use to the point where they’re likely to harm themselves, others or cause a public disturbance. Public nuisances of cans, bottles, cups, indoor furniture and game tables left outside residences on lawns, driveways or porches also would be considered violations of the ordinance.
Violations can lead to a $295 fine, but the city has expressed an interest in seeing a diversion program for first-time offenders.
In other business
• UW-Eau Claire’s push to get a new $256 million science and health sciences building on campus got a 9-0 vote of support from the council, which expressed how it could help strengthen Eau Claire’s workforce and employee recruitment.
• Local developer Pablo Properties gained the council’s approval in a 9-0 vote for its renovation and conversion of the Salsbury Row House, 302 W. Grand Ave., into condominiums.
• Board & Brush, 1402 S. Hastings Way, a business that holds classes where customers paint decorative wooden signs, got a license to serve beer.
Contact: 715-833-9204, firstname.lastname@example.org, @ADowd_LT on Twitter