There's a culture war in Cleveland Heights

A culture war has been declared in Cleveland Heights by the mayor and city council, as evidenced in an [ordinance] passed as an “emergency” measure.

Ordinance No. 75-2022 prohibits any treatment by a mental health professional the purpose of which is “an attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation.” It is called a protection of minors. Its main target is so-called “conversion therapy.” [The ordinance states] engaging in such therapy with a minor [is] “an Unlawful Discriminatory Practice.” It could result in a substantial penalty.

Protecting minors is a worthy goal. But this ordinance clearly is aimed at those considered as political enemies. It pertains to “efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender.” It would not [for example,] sanction school counselors who [might] advise minors to adopt a homosexual lifestyle. Nor does it address such treatments as puberty blockers or transgender surgery that also may harm minors. It is one sided in its approach, and real goals are selective. Enforcement also will be selective.

Sexuality is a private matter. Highly personal decisions about it should be left to families after consultation with their trusted professional care providers. 

Possible harms caused by conversion therapy can be addressed in other ways. Laws already on the books create criminal sanctions and civil remedies that protect minors. And any regulation of professional practices is a proper matter of state law, not local law.

The mayor and city council have invented a problem. This is their obvious effort to show solidarity with a political constituency. But that constituency does not include many sincere members of our community. They particularly exclude those with certain strong convictions, whether religious or otherwise. Although their ordinance does not mention these members, its radical approach shows they have them in mind.

All apparently are not welcome in Cleveland Heights.

Local government obviously should protect public health, safety, and welfare. But merely declaring a health “emergency” does not mean there is one. Perhaps city council next will outlaw sugar because it may cause diabetes. We should worry about what limits city council will place on its virtue signaling approach to the exercise of political power.

Tyranny begins with small steps toward altruistic goals. Ordinance No. 75-2022 shows how this could occur even in Cleveland Heights.

Alan Rapoport

Alan Rapoport, a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights, served on CH City Council (1980–87) and as mayor (1982–87).

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Volume 15, Issue 8, Posted 10:30 AM, 07.29.2022