When Calgary city councillors vote Monday on whether to pass a bylaw banning conversion therapy, Jeromy Farkas says he will vote in favour of the ban.
The ward 11 councillor was emotional while speaking about the upcoming vote in a Facebook live townhall on Thursday night, offering some personal anecdotes as to why he plans to support the bylaw.
Farkas, who is openly bisexual, said that before the age of 16 he attended six different schools.
“At a young age, I came out and confided to my best friend. That person became my chief tormentor,” Farkas said. “When a person in authority, someone whom I trusted and admired, suggested that I could more or less pray the me away, I felt humiliated.
“I would even say more than 20 years later and serving in a public role like I am, where every step and misstep is broadcast on television, I still have never felt as humiliated as I did that day.”
Farkas also became emotional speaking about another time he felt humiliated because of his sexuality. He said it was when he was mulling a run at council.
“I approached a person whom I respected about my intentions,” he said. “They thought that my orientation was not only the reason that I wouldn’t be able to be elected, but the reason that I wouldn’t be any good at it if I were to win.”
Farkas stated that he shares concerns that have been raised about jurisdiction and what the appropriate role is for Calgary in implementing such a ban. However, he emphasized his support for it.
“Today, I am so fortunate to be in a position where I am loved and accepted, and I am able to contribute in a meaningful way,” he explained. “I will be voting yes to the ban on conversion therapy.
“There will be some who say this is just virtue signalling, but I for one think it’s worth sending a signal about the kind of city we are and want to be.
“I want you to hear me clearly: you can be anyone, you can do anything, you can go anywhere, but most of all, you are welcome here… we are welcome here.”
Farkas said that he had heard concerns about the wording of the bylaw, specifically relating to the potential impacts on people seeking counsel from family members or faith leaders. He said he received a letter signed on behalf of about 50 clergy members, faith leaders and their faith communities across Calgary.
“In their letter, they wrote, ‘We have carefully reviewed the proposed bylaw and believe that the assertion that this bylaw is an attack on religious freedom is hyperbolic and false. Religious freedom will always and rightfully continue to be protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms where reasonable and appropriate.'”
Farkas said it was nice to have the support from the faith community on the proposed bylaw.
He stressed that the bylaw would not apply to those who provide support to those questioning their sexual or gender identity like teachers, faith leaders, school counsellors, mental health professionals, parents or friends.
Last Thursday, Calgary’s community services committee voted unanimously to approve the conversion therapy ban bylaw, sending it to council for a debate and final vote on Monday, May 25.