The Milwaukee Public Works Committee approved the proposed ban Thursday. The full council will now consider the measure, which bars "conversion therapy" or "reparative therapy" for anyone under 18.
Ald. Cavalier Johnson sponsored the ordinance. The techniques are harmful and ineffective, and banning them would show the city values its LGBTQ residents, he said.
There's no evidence such practices can change a person's gender identity or sexual orientation, according to a 2015 federal report. They can pose critical health risks including depression, substance abuse, stress and suicidal thoughts, according to a 2009 American Psychological Association report.
While there aren't any conversion therapy providers in the city, the ban is an important move, said Tony Snell Rodriguez of the Milwaukee Equal Rights Commission.
"It's important that we show we're an affirming city, to people that are making decisions about moving here or studying here or working here," he said. "It's an important message also to the children out there, who know that somebody is standing by them, that there's a city standing by them."
Ald. Chantia Lewis and Jose Perez voted to approve the measure, while Ald. Mark Borkowski and Ald. Bob Donovan abstained from voting. Donovan said he viewed the proposal as government overreach.
"I am just not comfortable intervening in these very sensitive family matters," he said.
A group of Democratic lawmakers proposed a statewide ban in Wisconsin last year, but the measure didn't advance in the Legislature. Nine states, the District of Columbia and a number of cities and towns have similar bans.