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Government & Politics

Cleveland Heights approves ban on conversion therapy, expansion of parental leave benefits

An LGBTQ pride flag flies below a U.S. flag outside of Cleveland Heights city hall.
Nick Castele
Ideastream Public Media
An LGBTQ pride flag flies below a U.S. flag outside Cleveland Heights city hall.

Cleveland Heights City Council has voted to expand its parental leave benefits and ban conversion therapy as part of a trio of measures introduced to mark LGBTQ Pride month.

Council also passed new anti-discrimination requirements for city contractors, adding the rules to the city’s already existing prohibitions on discrimination in housing, employment, education and city public works projects.

One measure passed by council prevents mental health professionals from practicing conversion therapy with minors. It defines ”conversion therapy” as any practice or treatment meant to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Violations of the ban would be considered unlawful discriminatory practices, which are adjudicated by a city fair practices board and subject to fines ranging from $10,000 to $50,000.

Council member Anthony Mattox, Jr. spoke in favor of the ban during a committee meeting Tuesday.

“Essentially you’re causing a child that is coming into an age and trying to find out who they are to question everything about themselves from birth,” he said. “It’s (an) extremely dangerous situation to be in.”

The new parental leave policy rewrites the city’s maternity leave offerings using gender-neutral language, providing four weeks of paid leave for new parents and 12 weeks of paid leave for parents who have given birth.

Mayor Kahlil Seren, who was brought up by two lesbian mothers, has made LGBTQ protections and visibility a focus of his new administration, raising pride flags at city buildings in June.

“Here in Cleveland Heights we turn our values into action,” Seren said in a news release after the measures passed. “We fly the Progress Pride Flag as a symbol of our support; but these policies create real change behind the symbolism.”