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Conversion therapy ban upheld by La Crosse council

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Audience members at the Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, La Crosse City Council meeting. (PHOTO: Brad Williams)

The fight over conversion therapy in La Crosse may be done, as far as the city council is concerned. Others in the community, however, say the debate will go on.

For the second time this year, the La Crosse city council passed an ordinance to outlaw therapy aimed at changing someone’s sexual identity.

After a closed session discussion, the vote passed 8-4, as a motion to postpone the matter indefinitely was defeated. A two-month delay, after the original passage of the ban in June, was about to run out.

Council president Barb Janssen, along with Chris Woodard, Doug Happel and Scott Neumeister voted against the ban. Council member Andrea Richmond abstained from voting.

Woodard said a court challenge now appears inevitable.

“If this does pass tonight, the city of La Crosse will be sued,” Woodard said. “It’s going to happen.”

Woodard added that such a legal battle could be financially costly for the city.

Backers of conversion therapy say the city can’t tell parents how to raise their children, while members of the local gay and transgender community support a ban.

“This fight is not over, so do not for one second think that we’re done here,” said ban supporter A.J. DePre, who spoke outside City Hall after the vote, arguing that trans rights will be an issue in the November elections.

In other council business, a resolution declaring a “climate emergency” and encouraging the reduction of greenhouse gases was approved. The council also appointed a new 5th District representative, Jenasea Hameister, to replace Justice Weaver, who resigned for health reasons in July. Hameister is a UWL student, and she’ll serve until the April election.

Jenasea Hameister is sworn in as a La Crosse city council member on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, by city clerk Nikki Elsen. (PHOTO: Brad Williams)

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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