Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Greenacres Bans Conversion Therapy for LGBTQ Youth


(Greenacres, Florida) At tonight's meeting, the Greenacres City Council voted to enact an ordinance to prohibit conversion therapy on minors.The ban takes effect immediately.
The ordinance states "conversion therapy on minors by licensed professionals is a business that should not exist within the City of Greenacres, as it is opposed to the community standards to which Greenacres aspires"   
Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, or sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), encompasses a range of discredited counseling practices by which health care providers or counselors seek to change a person's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression through aversion treatment.   
The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC), the county's most effective civil rights organization, asked the city to enact the ordinance. Over the past 29 years, the independent non-profit organization has succeeded in having local public officials enact more than 120 laws and policies providing equal rights, benefits and protection for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ)  community.

Over the past year, PBCHRC has been successful in convincing elected officials in West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Riviera Beach and Wellington to prohibit conversion therapy for minors.
PBCHRC Board Member Meredith Ockman focussed on the need to protect children from practitioners of conversion therapy.

"Children are almost always forced into conversion  therapy by parents who find it impossible to accept the fact that their children identify as gay or lesbian," said Ockman. "For more than twenty years, studies have shown conversion therapy to be extremely harmful to children."

PBCHRC is partnering with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center.  Both organizations have been successful in their efforts to protect minors from being subjected to the harms caused by conversion therapy.

"Conversion therapy is an extremely dangerous and fraudulent practice that claims to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity," said Scott McCoy, senior policy counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center. "This bogus practice is premised on the lie that LGBTQ individuals have a 'condition' that needs to be cured. This evening, the Greenacres City Council took a step in the right direction by approving this ordinance to ban this harmful practice on minors. The commission has sent a message to LGBTQ youth: 'You are perfect the way you are and do not need to be 'fixed.'"

At First Reading last month, Dr. Rachel Needle, a licensed psychologist who practices in Palm Beach County, told City Council Members that the practice of conversion therapy is based on two false premises.

"First, it is based on the falsehood that being gay, lesbian or transgender is a mental disorder or defect that needs to be cured," said Needle. "And second, it is based on the presumption that being LGBTQ is something that can actually be changed through therapy."

Needle, who is also an adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern University, states that the potential risks of conversion therapy on children include shame, guilt, depression, decreased self-esteem, increased self-hatred, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends, social withdrawal, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, hostility and blame towards parents, high risk behaviors, confusion, self-harm, substance abuse and suicidal ideation.

"Any ethical mental health practitioner should not attempt to cure or repair gender identity or sexual orientation through these scientifically invalid techniques," Needle added. "Attempting to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity can have a devastating impact on a minor."

"Throughout the summer, the City Council was presented with studies on conversion therapy that were conducted by mainstream medical and psychological organizations over the past twenty years," said Deputy Mayor Paula Bousquet. "Every report documented that there is a significant potential for children undergoing conversion therapy to be harmed psychologically."

"Allowing anyone to expose children to such harm is inconsistent with our community values." Bousquet added.

Over the past year, Dr. Julie Harren Hamilton, a local psychologist who treats patients for what she refers to as "unwanted same-sex attraction", has repeatedly tried to convince elected officials in Palm Beach County to allow her and her colleagues to continue to treat children with the goal of changing their sexual orientation or gender identity.  

Hamilton had served as the president of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), a small, but well-funded, for-profit organization made up of therapists who sought to diminish the rights of LGBTQ people by singling them out as having mental disorders. The organization advocated anti-LGBTQ therapy for children as young a three years old and encouraged parents to have their children marginalize and ridicule their LGBTQ classmates. In 2012, the organization's 501(c)(3) tax exempt status was revoked by the Internal Revenue Service.

Hamilton has warned that if the ordinance was enacted, children "distressed by homosexual attractions and feelings" would be unable to get help.
"Although the discredited practice of
conversion therapy has long been rejected by virtually all of our nation's mainstream medical, psychiatric, psychological and mental health organizations, Dr. Hamilton has repeatedly tried to mislead elected officials," said said retired Judge Rand Hoch, PBCHRC's President and Founder.

"Regardless of Dr. Hamilton's statements, the truth is that children protected by the ordinances enacted throughout Palm Beach County may still seek help from licensed professionals. Nothing in the ordinances prevent any child from seeking help regarding same-sex attractions, sexual orientation or gender identity," said Hoch.

Advocates for the rights of children in Palm Beach County have been in the forefront of the opposition to conversion therapy for many years.
  In November, 2009, more than 100 demonstrators turned out to protest the NARTH conference in West Palm Beach at which  conference organizers held workshops to train therapists how to convert LGBTQ individuals to become heterosexuals.
"Instilling self-hatred in children is not therapy,"said Hoch

Nearly every major medical and psychological association in the country has come out in opposition to conversion therapy. These include the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American College of Physicians, the American Counseling Association, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American School Health Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, the Pan American Health Organization, the Regional Office of the World Health Organization and the World Psychiatric Association.
In August 2009, the American Psychological Association adopted the "Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts," which found that the soc-called reparative treatment relied entirely on anti-LGBTQ bigotry and a clear distortion of scientific data.

"The American Psychological Association has linked conversion therapy to depression, substance abuse and even suicide, and these risks are particularly acute for youth," said Carolyn Reyes, Youth Policy Counsel and Coordinator of NCLR's BornPerfect Campaign to end conversion therapy  "We applaud the efforts by the Commission to ensure that the children of Wellington are protected from these harms, and that their families aren't duped by trusted professionals to whom they turn for support during a vulnerable time."

In addition, conversion therapy has been soundly rejected by the American Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Education Association and the School Social Work Association of America.


Across the nation, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, the District of Columbia, Pima County (AZ), Cincinnati (OH), Seattle (WA), Pittsburgh (PA), Toledo (OH), Columbus (OH) and Allentown (PA) have laws preventing licensed mental health providers from offering conversion therapy to minors. (New York's ban is uniquely the result of an order signed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and not legislation.)

Greenacres joins a dozen other Florida municipalities -- West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Riviera Beach, Miami, Wilton Manors, Miami Beach, Bay Harbor Islands, El Portal, Key West and Tampa -- which have already enacted conversion therapy bans for minors.

Last month, the Miami-Dade County Commission gave initial approval to an ordinance banning conversion therapy on minors. A final vote will take place later this summer before the ban can go into effect. 

According to an Orlando Political Observer-Gravis Marketing poll of 1,243 Florida voters conducted April 4 through April 10, 71% think conversion therapy should be illegal for minors in Florida, 18% were uncertain and only 11% thought conversion therapy should be legal. The poll has a margin of error of 2.8%.

The Greenacres conversion therapy ordinance - and all of the similar ordinances enacted to date - applies only to state-licensed therapists. Unlicensed therapists, such as those associated with faith-based groups, retain their religious freedom to engage in such work. Additionally, adults remain free to seek out conversion therapy.  

Although there have been several court challenges to the constitutionality of banning conversion therapy, all have failed. On four occasions, most recently on May 1, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear challenges to the constitutionality laws banning conversion therapy for minors.

In addition, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Human Rights Campaign (a Washington, DC-based LGBTQ rights organization which is not affiliated with PBCHRC) filed a federal consumer fraud complaint with the Federal Trade Commission seeking to ban conversion therapy nationwide.

In late April, the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act of 2017 was introduced in Congress to crack down on conversion therapy. More than 70 members of Congress have gone on record in support of the bill. If enacted, the law would make sexual orientation change efforts illegal under the Federal Trade Commission Act and classify advertising these services or providing them in exchange for monetary compensation as fraudulent, unfair, and deceptive. The bill would also explicitly clarify that the Federal Trade Commission has the duty to enforce this provision and would further provide state attorneys general the authority to enforce it in federal court.

During the past two consecutive legislative sessions, State Senator Jeff Clemens (D-Atlantis) introduced bills to prohibit conversion therapy on minors statewide. However, the Florida Senate refused to take action on the bills. Clemens intends to reintroduce the bill in the 2018 legislative session.

"Unfortunately, it appears to be extremely unlikely that legislative leaders in Washington and Tallahassee will take action to ban conversion therapy in the foreseeable future," said Deputy Mayor Bousquet "Tonight the Greenacres City Council has taken a stand to ensure our residents that we are going to do all we can to protect LGBTQ youth in our city."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Greenacres Moves Forward With Conversion Therapy Ban for Minors


At Monday night's meeting, the Greenacres City Council unanimously voted at First Reading to enact an ordinance to prohibit conversion therapy on minors. Greenacres, with a population of  38,696, is Palm Beach County's eighth largest municipality.

A final vote next month is required before the ordinance will go into effect.  

The ordinance states "conversion therapy on minors by licensed professionals is a business that should not exist within the City of Greenacres, as it is opposed to the community standards to which Greenacres aspires"

Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, or sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), encompasses a range of discredited counseling practices by which health care providers or counselors seek to change a person's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression through aversion treatment.   

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC), the county's most effective civil rights organization, asked the city to enact the ordinance. Over the past 29 years, the independent non-profit organization has succeeded in having local public officials enact more than 120 laws and policies providing equal rights, benefits and protection for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ)  community.

Over the past year, PBCHRC has been successful in convincing elected officials in West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Riviera Beach and Wellington to prohibit conversion therapy for minors.

PBCHRC Board Member Meredith Ockman focussed on the need to protect children from practitioners of conversion therapy.

"Children are almost always forced into conversion  therapy by parents who find it impossible to accept the fact that their children identify as gay or lesbian," said Ockman. "For more than twenty years, studies have shown conversion therapy to be extremely harmful to children."

PBCHRC is partnering with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center.  Both organizations have been successful in their efforts to protect minors from being subjected to the harms caused by conversion therapy.

"Conversion therapy is an extremely dangerous and fraudulent practice that claims to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity," said Scott McCoy, senior policy counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center. "This bogus practice is premised on the lie that LGBTQ individuals have a 'condition' that needs to be cured. This evening, the Greenacres City Council took a step in the right direction by approving this ordinance to ban this harmful practice on minors. The commission has sent a message to LGBTQ youth: 'You are perfect the way you are and do not need to be 'fixed.'"

Dr. Rachel Needle, a licensed psychologist who practices in Palm Beach County, told City Council Members that the practice of conversion therapy is based on two false premises.

"First, it is based on the falsehood that being gay, lesbian or transgender is a mental disorder or defect that needs to be cured," said Needle. "And second, it is based on the presumption that being LGBTQ is something that can actually be changed through therapy."

Needle, who is also an adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern University, states that the potential risks of conversion therapy on children include shame, guilt, depression, decreased self-esteem, increased self-hatred, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends, social withdrawal, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, hostility and blame towards parents, high risk behaviors, confusion, self-harm, substance abuse and suicidal ideation.

"Any ethical mental health practitioner should not attempt to cure or repair gender identity or sexual orientation through these scientifically invalid techniques," Needle added. "Attempting to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity can have a devastating impact on a minor."
 
"Throughout the summer, the City Council was presented with studies on conversion therapy that were conducted by mainstream medical and psychological organizations over the past twenty years," said Deputy Mayor Paula Bousquet. "Every report documented that there is a significant potential for children undergoing conversion therapy to be harmed psychologically."

"Allowing anyone to expose children to such harm is inconsistent with our community values." Bousquet added.

Advocates for the rights of children in Palm Beach County have been in the forefront of the opposition to conversion therapy for many years.
In November, 2009, more than 100 demonstrators turned out to protest the NARTH conference in West Palm Beach at which  conference organizers held workshops to train therapists how to convert LGBTQ individuals to become heterosexuals. .
"Instilling self-hatred in children is not therapy,"said PBCHRC President and Founder Rand Hoch.

Nearly every major medical and psychological association in the country has come out in opposition to conversion therapy. These include the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American College of Physicians, the American Counseling Association, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American School Health Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, the Pan American Health Organization, the Regional Office of the World Health Organization and the World Psychiatric Association.

"The American Psychological Association has linked conversion therapy to depression, substance abuse and even suicide, and these risks are particularly acute for youth," said Carolyn Reyes, Youth Policy Counsel and Coordinator of NCLR's BornPerfect Campaign to end conversion therapy  "We applaud the efforts by the Commission to ensure that the children of Wellington are protected from these harms, and that their families aren't duped by trusted professionals to whom they turn for support during a vulnerable time."

In addition, conversion therapy has been soundly rejected by the American Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Education Association and the School Social Work Association of America.


Across the nation, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Rhode Island, the District of Columbia, Cincinnati (OH), Seattle (WA), Pittsburgh (PA), Toledo (OH) and Columbus (OH) have laws preventing licensed mental health providers from offering conversion therapy to minors. 

In Florida, a dozen municipalities -- West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Riviera Beach, Wellington, Miami, Wilton Manors, Miami Beach, Bay Harbor Islands, El Portal, Key West and Tampa -- have already enacted conversion therapy bans for minors. 

Last month, the Miami-Dade County Commission gave initial approval to an ordinance banning conversion therapy on minors. A final vote will take place later this summer before the ban can go into effect. 

According to an Orlando Political Observer-Gravis Marketing poll of 1,243 Florida voters conducted April 4 through April 10, 71% think conversion therapy should be illegal for minors in Florida, 18% were uncertain and only 11% thought conversion therapy should be legal. The poll has a margin of error of 2.8%.

During the past two sessions of the Florida Legislature, State Senator Jeff Clemens (D-Atlantis) introduced bills to prohibit conversion therapy on minors statewide. However, the Florida Senate refused to take action on the bills. Clemens intends to reintroduce the bill in the 2018 legislative session.

"Unfortunately, it appears to be extremely unlikely that legislative leaders in Washington and Tallahassee will take action to ban conversion therapy in the foreseeable future," said Deputy Mayor Bousquet "Tonight the Greenacres City Council has taken a stand to ensure our residents that we are going to do all we can to protect LGBTQ youth in our city."

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Wellington, Florida Bans 'Ex-Gay' Therapy To Youth

By Carlos Santoscoy, On Top Mangazine
June 28, 2017

Wellington on Tuesday became the 13th Florida municipality to prohibit therapies that attempt to alter the sexual orientation or gender identity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.

Such therapies go by names such as “conversion therapy,” “reparative therapy” or “ex-gay therapy.”

According to the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC), which backed the measure, clergy members are exempt under the proposal unless they are also state-licensed mental health professionals.

The Village Council voted 3-2 in favor of the ban, with Mayor Anne Gerwig casting one of the “no” votes. The ban takes effect immediately.

Gerwig said that she voted against the measure because young people should have the option to choose.

“I think they should have that right,” she's quoted as saying by the Palm Beach Post, “and that's what I struggle with here.”

Earlier this month, Dr. Rachel Needle, a licensed psychologist who practices in Palm Beach County, testified in favor of the ban, saying that conversion therapy is based on two false premises.

“First, it is based on the falsehood that being gay, lesbian or transgender is a mental disorder or defect that needs to be cured,” Needle told city leaders. “And second, it is based on the presumption that being LGBTQ is something that can actually be changed through therapy.”

“Attempting to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity can have a devastating impact on a minor,” she added.

Wellington joins West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Riviera Beach, Miami, Wilton Manors, Miami Beach, Bay Harbor Islands, El Portal, Key West and Tampa in enacting such an ordinance

Friday, June 16, 2017

President's Message - June 2017

On June 11, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council and other LGBTQ and allied organizations celebrated at the Equality Rally for Unity and Pride organized by Compass at West Palm Beach City Hall. Speaker after speaker reminded the crowd how fortunate  Palm Beach County's LGBTQ citizens are compared to those living in other parts of the state and country.

Rand Photo 2013 Unlike Floridians living in approximately 85% of Florida's 67 counties, Palm Beach County's LGBTQ residents are protected from discrimination in employment, housing and a full range of public accommodations. Our public school students are protected from harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Unmarried lesbian and gay couples can register as domestic partners and enjoy limited benefits. More and more LGBTQ youth are being protected from the abuses related to so-called "conversion therapy."

As I stated addressing rally attendees,"All Floridians and all Americans - not just those of us in Palm Beach County - should enjoy the same rights, benefits and protections." However, outside of South Florida and a few pockets here and there in the Sunshine State, little is being done to ensure that any progress will be made for LGBT people statewide and nationwide in the foreseeable future.

For the eleventh consecutive year, the Florida Legislature has failed to amend the Florida Civil Rights Act and Florida's Fair Housing Act to include LGBTQ Floridians. Moreover, Governor Rick Scott, like his predecessor Charlie Crist, has failed to issue an executive order providing equal treatment for LGBTQ state employees and contractors.

In our nation's capital, no action has been taken on the Equality Act of 2017 (S.1006/H.R.2282), which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the  Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act and other federal laws to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity." These amendments are necessary to provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service. The Equality Act would also update the definition of "public accommodations" to include virtually every place where business is conducted throughout the country.

The Equality Act has been co-sponsored by Senator Bill Nelson (and 45 other members of the U.S. Senate) as well as by Representatives Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel and Alcee Hastings (and 193 other members of the U.S. House of Representatives).

Based on the appointments and statements made by the Trump-Pence administration, as well as inaction by Congressional leaders, it appears that protecting the rights of LGBTQ Americans is simply not a national priority.

Therefore, we must continue to act locally to ensure LGBTQ people are provided with equal rights, protections and benefits.


SUCCESSES  IN THE 2017 MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS

Since 1988, volunteers for the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance (PBCHRCVA) have interviewed hundreds of candidates for public office.  We have done this to educate candidates and public officials and select candidates for endorsements. PBCHRCVA endorses candidates who support LGBTQ initiatives and privacy rights.  Endorsements of candidates are made upon consideration of:

●    How a candidate has voted on LGBTQ issues 
●    How a candidate has supported the Palm Beach County LGBTQ community

PBCHRCVA reviewed the records of incumbent office holders throughout the county and interviewed numerous candidates seeking election to municipal offices in this spring's municipal elections. Much of the Council's ability to screen, interview and endorse candidates rests on the shoulders of Rae Franks, who has served as the Council's Secretary since the early-1990s. The entire Board of Directors is grateful to Rae for the time and energy she has spent over the past several months - and over many, many years - contacting candidates, scheduling interviews, and asking the questions that help us make difficult endorsement choices.

PBCHRCVA works diligently to identify more LGBTQ-supportive residents and get them registered to vote. In the weeks before the elections, we conducted an extensive  Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) campaign in several municipalities. We encouraged supporters to get their LGBTQ-friendly family, co-workers and friends to vote-by-mail or get to the polls to vote for candidates endorsed by PBCHRCVA.

Once again, LGBTQ voters throughout Palm Beach County turned out in record numbers.  Together with our allies throughout the county, we helped elect (or re-elect) the following officials to hold office in 2017:

Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie 
Boca Raton City Councilman Scott Singer  
Boynton Beach City Commissioner Joe Casello 
Boynton Beach City Commissioner Mack McCray  
Greenacres City Councilwoman Lisa Rivera  
Greenacres City Councilwoman Paula Bousquet 
Lake Worth City Commissioner  Herman Robinson 
Palm Beach Town Councilwoman Danielle Hickox Moore  
Palm Beach Gardens City Councilman Mark Marciano  
Palm Beach Gardens City Councilman Matthew Lane

You can be sure that PBCHRC will be calling on all public officials to take steps to enact laws and policies to provide equal protection, treatment and benefits for the local LGBTQ community.

Thanks to your support of our efforts, it is illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ people with regard to employment, housing and public accommodation throughout Palm Beach County. In fact, there are now 120 local ordinances, resolutions, collective bargaining agreements and policies which provide Palm Beach County's LGBTQ  residents and visitors equal rights, protections and benefits.  A complete list can be found by going to www.pbchrc.org/our-impact and clicking on "Laws & Policies."

While no more elections are scheduled for 2017 in Palm Beach County, PBCHRCVA is already fielding requests for endorsements for candidates running for public offices in 2018.  For a list of the candidates PBCHRCVA has endorsed, click here.


BANNING CONVERSION THERAPY

PBCHRC's top priority for 2017 is to ban the practice of conversion therapy on minors throughout Palm Beach County. (Conversion therapy, long discredited by the nation's leading medical and mental health organizations, is counseling based on the erroneous assumption that LGBTQ identities are mental disorders that can be cured through aversion treatment).

Across the nation, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, the District of Columbia, Cincinnati (OH), Seattle (WA), Pittsburgh (PA), Toledo (OH) and Columbus (OH) have laws preventing licensed mental health providers from offering conversion therapy to minors. (New York's ban is uniquely the result of an executive order signed Governor Andrew Cuomo and not legislation.)

In Florida, the municipalities of West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Riviera Beach, Delray Beach, Miami, Wilton Manors, Miami Beach, Bay Harbor Islands, El Portal, Key West and Tampa have banned the practice. In June, both the Wellington Village Council and the Miami-Dade County Commission approved (on First Reading) ordinances banning conversion therapy for minors. Final Readings in both jurisdictions are expected to be held soon.

PBCHRC Board Member Trent Steele and I have been coordinating the local efforts. We have partnered with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center to work on banning conversion therapy on minors locally.

 Special thanks go our to Dr. Racehl Needle, a local

psychologist andsex therapist. Her  persuasive presentations at public hearings have been instrumental in securing the passage of all of the  conversion therapy bans enacted to date in Palm Beach County. PBCHRC is grateful for Rachel's volunteer work on behalf of LGBTQ youth.
 
In the months to come, PBCHRC will work to enact similar bans on conversion therapy in our county's most populated municipalities. Our ultimate goal is to persuade the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners to enact a countywide ban protecting LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy before the end of the year.


DANIEL S. HALL SOCIAL JUSTICE AWARDS

Jax Martin and Dan Hall
 
For the third year, PBCHRC presented Daniel S. Hall Social Justice Awards to local high school seniors in recognition of both the work they have done to benefit the LGBTQ community and the work we expect them to do in the future. At the Lavender Graduation held at Compass earlier this month, the scholarships were presented to:

Matthew Nadel, a senior at Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts. Matt is the founder and president of his school's Gender and Sexuality Alliance, which functions as both a supportive space for LGBTQ students and an on-campus activism organization. He successfully advocated for eight gender-neutral restrooms on the Dreyfoos campus and pioneered the school's Safe Space program. Matt also serves on the National Student Council of GLSEN, the nation's largest organization devoted to LGBTQ activism in K-12 school. Matthew will carry his passion for social action to Yale University, where he plans to pursue a double major in Political Science and Film & Media Studies.
 
Jax Martin, a senior at Boynton Beach High School. Jax is a young and outspoken individual that has a passion for serving those in the community, specifically within the LGBTQ community. Jax was the president of the Boynton Beach High School Gay Straight Alliance, attends and contributes to the youth group at Compass Gay and Lesbian Community Center. He has a passion for safer sex advocacy and aspires to work in the field of HIV prevention or within an area of the LGBTQ community that is underserved.

Thanks go out to PBCHRC Vice President Carly Cass for coordinating the scholarship program by reviewing applications, interviewing applicants and nominating students for consideration by the PBCHRC Board.


PBCHRC BOARD TRANSITIONS

Vice President Jessica Blackman and Board Member Matthew McWatters have left the Board of Directors as the result of relocations. Jess will move back to New England and Matt has already moved to Fort Myers.

During her tenure as Vice President, Jess coordinated PBCHRC's efforts in educating lawyers from around the state on cutting edge legal issues facing the LGBTQ community. She was also instrumental in the City of Palm Beach Gardens enacting domestic partnership benefits long before marriage equality became the law in Florida.

Matt, with his extensive political contacts, was instrumental in a number of our political initiatives. He also maintained  PBCHRC's  Facebook page, which has long provided LGBTQ news and commentary.

PBCHRC thanks Jess and Matt for their dedication and service to the LGBTQ community and wishes them the best in their new endeavors.


The Board of Directors has elected Carly Cass to serve as Vice President.  Our youngest board member, Carly focuses primarily on education, youth and organizing. She has worked extensively with the School Board to ensure that sex education curriculum includes LGBTQ and safe sex issues.  Additionally, she is an amazing organizer and networker.

PBCHRC is pleased to announce two new board members; both have already immersed themselves in our program to ban conversion therapy.

Marcie Hall is a Certified Fund Raising Executive with an extensive background in healthcare philanthropy, serving over 25 years in the non-profit sector.  She holds a graduate degree in non-profit management from Florida Atlantic University, is a veteran of the U.S. Army, and is thrilled to be a part of history -- on the night when gay marriage became legal in Florida, she and Chris, her partner of 33 years, were one of the 81 couples who said "I do" in a group ceremony at the South County Courthouse in Delray Beach.  Before joining the PBCHRC Board, Marcie worked as a volunteer and she was instrumental in having the City of Delray Beach enact an LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinance.  Shortly after she joined the board, Marcie led the campaign which resulted in the Delray Beach City Commission unanimously enacting an ordinance banning conversion therapy for minors.  Marcie and Chris are longtime residents of  Delray Beach.
 
Michael Duquette Fowler is Vice President, Information Management of NextEra Energy Resources. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business from John Hopkins University and has received numerous awards in his field.  Michael also is on the Technology Advisory Committee for the Palm Beach County School Board.  Michael has been working closely with PBCHRC Board Member Trent Steele in urging the Palm Beach Gardens City Council to move forward with a conversion therapy ban. Michael and his partner David live in Palm Beach Gardens.
 
THE 8TH ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL GAY POLO TOURNAMENT

Thanks to the generosity of one of PBCHRC's major donors, we were the presenting sponsor of this year's Gay Polo Tournament. Our longstanding partnership with the International Gay Polo League has resulted in the enactment of numerous laws and policies in the Village of Wellington providing equal rights and benefits for Village employees.

Joseph Pubillones, Rand Hoch 
and Don Todorich 

PBCHRC thanks Don Todorich of The Corcoran Group and Joseph Pubillones Interiors for again co-sponsoring the PBCHRC Tailgate space. PBCHRC supporters enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of polo, cocktails and camaraderie.


PBCHRC's 30th Anniversary

On Saturday evening, January 13, 2018,  PBCHRC will kick off our 30th anniversary celebrations with our annual Winter Fête for major donors.  This year's event will be held at Tarpon Cove, the Palm Beach home of James Berwind and Kevin Clark.

PBCHRC is also seeking donors to help underwrite our Winter Fête. Benefactors who contribute $3,000 will receive four tickets and Sponsors who contribute $1,500 will receive two tickets to the event. All underwriters will be invited to a fabulous pre-party at a private home in early January. To date, our underwriters to date include:

Hosts 
James Berwind and Kevin Clark
Benefactors 
Daniel S. Hall 
The Law and Mediation Offices of Rand Hoch, P.A. 
Trent Steele and Wayne Lewis
Sponsors 
State Representative Lori Berman
Christopher Caneles and Stephen Nesbitt 
MBAF, Accountants and Advisors, LLC 
J. P. Sasser 
Scott Velozo and Stephen Mooney

Tickets are $300 per person and since tickets to both the 2016 and 2017 Winter Fêtes sold out long before we had the opportunity to send out invitations, we expect the 2018 Winter Fête to do the same.

To become a Benefactor or a Sponsor 
or to buy individual tickets click here.  
 

OTHER NEWS
 
*    Earlier this year, PBCHRC sent our third letter to Governor Rick Scott requesting him to update his Executive Order on "Reaffirming Commitment to Diversity in Government" to specifically include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression" as protected classes. However, once again, it appears to have fallen on deaf ears.
 
*    In May, the Harvey Milk Foundation presented PBCHRC Treasurer Dan Hall with the 2017 Diversity Honors Award for his volunteer work for the LGBTQ community spanning more than three decades.
 
*    After serving as PBCHRC's representative on the Palm Beach County School District's Diversity & Equity Committee for the past five years, Mark Rutherford has stepped down.  PBCHRC thanks Mark for tireless dedication to the public school students throughout Palm Beach County.
 
*    Longtime PBCHRC supporter Joseph Pubillones, whose daughter is a student at Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts, has been appointed as  PBCHRC's new  representative on the Palm Beach County School District's Diversity & Equity Committee.
 
*    PBCHRC Vice President Carly Cass continues to work closely with school board members and school district staff as work continues on developing a comprehensive sex education program which will be LGBTQ-inclusive.
 
*    Concerned about the effects of conversion therapy on public school students, several school board members have begun to scrutinize School District contracts with mental health and social service providers. Their goal is to ensure that no taxpayer dollars go to practitioners of conversion therapy.
 
*    Three of Palm Beach County's representatives in Congress - Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel and Alcee Hastings - have signed on as co-sponsors of the Therapeutic Fraud Protection Act of 2017 (H.R. 2119). If enacted, the practice of conversion therapy will be banned nationwide.
 
*    Later this month, I will meet with Congressman Brian Mast to discuss the possibility of his becoming a co-sponsor of both H.R. 2119 and the Equality Act of 2017 (H.R.2282).  As mentioned above, the Equality Act has already been co-sponsored by Representatives Deutch, Frankel and Hastings. I will keep you posted of the outcome of my meeting with Congressman Mast.
 
*    PBCHRC continues to work with Palm Beach County's newest municipality, the City of Westlake, on an LGBTQ-inclusive Civil Rights Ordinance.
 
*    In August, PBCHRC's Litigation Chair Trent Steele, Secretary Rae Franks and I will be attending the annual Lavender Law conference. Since its inception in 1988, Lavender Law has brought together LGBTQ and allied legal professionals to both look back at our shared history of achievement and to look forward to the advancements being made at the cutting edge of the legal profession. 
 
Since 1988, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council has worked diligently on behalf of the LGBTQ community. With your support, we will continue to do so in the years to come - and we will keep you posted on our progress!

Judge Rand Hoch (retired),
President and Founder    

Conversion Therapy Ban Should Be Enacted By Palm Beach County, State




A year ago, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council pushed for the Palm Beach County Commission to take up the issue of banning “conversion therapy” for minors, the controversial practice in which therapists attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Palm Beach County had the opportunity to be the first county in Florida to ban conversion therapy for people under the age of 18. But thus far, the commissioners have dropped the ball on creating a county umbrella policy banning the measure outright, so HRC President Rand Hoch has decided to go door-to-door (or, rather, municipality-to-municipality) to get local leaders to do what the county has not accomplished over the past 12 months.

This week, Wellington took a major step toward joining West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach and Riviera Beach in enacting such a ban when the Wellington Village Council voted 4-1, with Mayor Anne Gerwig dissenting, to pass the first reading of a conversion therapy ban for minors. The ban would stop the practice by licensed mental health professionals within village boundaries.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, conversion therapy refers to psychotherapy aimed at eliminating homosexual desires and is used by people who do not think homosexuality is a variation within human sexual orientation, but rather still believe homosexuality is a mental disorder. The APA, along with other professional groups, has concluded that trying to change someone’s sexual orientation can cause depression, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse.

When the APA published the first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (the manual used by mental health professionals to diagnose psychiatric disorders) in 1952, homosexuality was defined as a psychiatric disorder. Although there was no scientific evidence to support the diagnosis, it remained in the DSM until 1973. Since then, the APA has held that being gay or lesbian is not a psychiatric disorder, but rather a normal expression of human sexuality.

California was the first state to outright ban conversion therapy in 2013. Many religious legal organizations, representing individual parents, children and therapists, argued that the law violated therapists’ free expression and parents’ rights to make medical decisions for their children. Since then, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, D.C. have passed laws banning licensed mental health providers from offering the practice to children. As with Wellington’s ban, those over the age of 18 are still able to seek out conversion therapy.

As part of a lengthy discussion Tuesday, Gerwig said she was bothered that the ordinance would prohibit licensed professionals from practicing conversion therapy to minors, but not unlicensed youth counselors. Under current Florida law, this is accurate. Although the Wellington ordinance would ban the practice by licensed professionals, by state regulation, it will not ban its use by religious leaders who are not also mental health professionals and other non-professional groups.

For the past two legislative sessions, State Sen. Jeff Clemens has introduced legislation to prohibit conversion therapy statewide. However, the legislature has not taken action on the bills. Clemens intends to reintroduce the bill in the 2018 legislative session. We are glad to see Wellington enact this ban and urge both the county and the state to ban the practice.

http://gotowncrier.com/2017/06/conversion-therapy-ban-should-be-enacted-by-county-state/

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wellington Moves Forward With Conversion Therapy Ban for Minors

June 14, 2107

(Wellington, Florida) At last night's tonight's meeting, the Wellington Village Council voted at First Reading to prohibit conversion therapy on minors within village limits. The vote was four to one, with Mayor being the sole vote against the ordinance.

The ban applies to doctors, osteopaths, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, marriage or family therapists and licensed counselors. However, it does not apply to members of the clergy unless the are also state-licensed mental health professionals. A second vote later this month is required before the ban can go into effect.

Councilman Michael J. Napoleone, Vice Mayor John T. McGovern, Councilwoman Tanya Siskind, Mayor Anner Gerwig and Councilman Michael Drahos

Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, or sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), encompasses a range of discredited counseling practices by which health care providers or counselors seek to change a person's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression through aversion treatment.
The action was taken at the request of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC), the county's most effective civil rights organization. Over the past 29 years, the independent non-profit organization has succeeded in having local public officials enact 120 laws and policies providing equal rights, benefits and protection for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ)  community.

To date, PBCHRC has been responsible for the enactment of similar conversion therapy bans in West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach and Riviera Beach.

PBCHRC Vice President Carly Cass focussed on the need to protect children from practitioners of conversion therapy.

"Minors are frequently forced into conversion  therapy by parents who find it impossible to accept the fact that their children identify as gay or lesbian," said Cass. "This so-called therapy has often been shown to be extremely harmful."

PBCHRC is partnering with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center.  Both organizations have been successful in their efforts to protect minors from being subjected to the harms caused by conversion therapy.

"Conversion therapy is an extremely dangerous and fraudulent practice that claims to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity," said Scott McCoy, senior policy counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center. "This bogus practice is premised on the lie that LGBTQ individuals have a 'condition' that needs to be cured. This evening, the Wellington Village Council took a step in the right direction by enacting this ordinance to ban this harmful practice on minors. The commission has sent a message to LGBTQ youth: 'You are perfect the way you are and do not need to be 'fixed.'"

Dr. Rachel Needle, a licensed psychologist who practices in Palm Beach County, told Village Council Members that the practice of conversion therapy is based on two false premises.

"First, it is based on the falsehood that being gay, lesbian or transgender is a mental disorder or defect that needs to be cured," said Needle. "And second, it is based on the presumption that being LGBTQ is something that can actually be changed through therapy."

Needle, who is also an adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern University, noted that the potential risks of conversion therapy on children include shame, guilt, depression, decreased self-esteem, increased self-hatred, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends, social withdrawal, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, hostility and blame towards parents, high risk behaviors, confusion, self-harm, substance abuse and suicidal ideation.

"Any ethical mental health practitioner should not attempt to cure or repair gender identity or sexual orientation through these scientifically invalid techniques," Needle stated.  "Attempting to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity can have a devastating impact on a minor."

Wellington Vice Mayor John T. McGovern and Councilman Michael J. Napoleone brought the ordinance forward.

"Wellington is a diverse, inclusive, safe community that strives to provide the best quality of life for its residents - most of all its children." said Vice Mayor John McGovern. "Allowing any child to be exposed to the critical health risks associated with sexual orientation change efforts, without any clear evidence that such change is even possible, is inconsistent with our community."


"Conversion therapy has been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades. Not only is it proven to be ineffective, but these so-called treatments can cause psychological harm to minors," said Napoleone. "This is a practice that is all harm and no good.  Being gay is not a a disorder that requires treatment. We have the authority as a Village to protect minors from the harm caused by conversion therapy and I am strongly in favor of banning such practices in Wellington." 
Although mental health practitioners have been conducting conversion therapy on LGBTQ patients for several decades, the practice gained popularity in the late 20th century, when Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, the co-founder the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), popularized conversion therapy.

One of Dr. Nicolosi's colleagues, Dr. Julie Harren Hamilton, urged Village Council Members to vote down the ban on conversion therapy for minors. She warned Village Council Members that if they enacted the ordinance, it would prohibit children distressed by homosexual attractions and feelings from getting help.

While she did not identify herself as such, Dr. Hamilton served as the President of NARTH for several years. NARTH was a small, but well-funded, for-profit organization made up of therapists who sought to diminish the rights of LGBTQ people by singling them out as having mental disorders.The organization advocated anti-LGBTQ therapy for children as young a three years old and encouraged parents to have their children marginalize and ridicule their LGBTQ classmates. In 2012, the organization's 501(c)(3) tax exempt status was revoked by the Internal Revenue Service.

"Dr. Hamilton is intentionally trying to mislead the Village Council," Rand Photo 2013 said retired Judge Rand Hoch, PBCHRC's President and Founder.. "Minors protected by the ordinance may seek out treatment from licensed professionals -- as well as from unlicensed individuals, including members of the clergy - in addressing any issues regarding their sexuality.  Nothing in the ordinance will prevent minors from seeking help regarding same-sex attractions, or gender identity or expression."

A few Wellington residents expressed concern that a ban on conversion therapy would infringe on their constitutional rights as parents. However, PBCHRC attorney Jamie Todd Foreman-Plakas reminded Village Council Members that the rights of parents have been frequently limited by the government.

"While the U.S. Constitution protects parents' decisions regarding
the care, custody, and control of their children, that protection is not without qualification," said attorney Jamie Todd Plakas-Foreman, a member of PBCHRC Board of Directors.  "Local governments have enacted  laws regarding compulsory school attendance, mandatory school uniforms, compulsory vaccinations of children and curfews for minors, to name a few."
 
"Elected officials at the local, state and federal levels have a compelling interest in protecting children. Indeed, they have broad authority to do so," said Hoch. "Courts across our nation have repeatedly ruled that the fundamental rights of parents do not include the right to choose medical or mental health treatment for their children that has been determined to be harmful."

Palm Beach County activists have been in the forefront on opposing conversion therapy for many years.
In November, 2009, more than 100 demonstrators turned out to protest the NARTH conference in West Palm Beach at which  conference organizers held workshops to train therapists how to convert LGBTQ individuals to become heterosexuals.
"The discredited practice of conversion therapy has long been rejected by virtually all of our nation's major medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional and mental health organizations," said Hoch. "Instilling self-hatred in children is not therapy."

Nearly every major medical and psychological association in the country has come out in opposition to conversion therapy. These include the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American College of Physicians, the American Counseling Association, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American School Health Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, the Pan American Health Organization, the Regional Office of the World Health Organization and the World Psychiatric Association.
In August 2009, the American Psychological Association adopted the "Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts," which found that the soc-called reparative treatment relied entirely on anti-LGBTQ bigotry and a clear distortion of scientific data.

"The American Psychological Association has linked conversion therapy to depression, substance abuse and even suicide, and these risks are particularly acute for youth," said Carolyn Reyes, Youth Policy Counsel and Coordinator of NCLR's BornPerfect Campaign to end conversion therapy  "We applaud the efforts by the Commission to ensure that the children of Wellington are protected from these harms, and that their families aren't duped by trusted professionals to whom they turn for support during a vulnerable time."

In addition, conversion therapy has been soundly rejected by the American Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Education Association and the School Social Work Association of America.


Across the nation, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, the District of Columbia, Cincinnati (OH), Seattle (WA), Pittsburgh (PA), Toledo (OH) and Columbus (OH) have laws preventing licensed mental health providers from offering conversion therapy to minors. (New York's ban is uniquely the result of an order signed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and not legislation.)

In Florida, West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Riviera Beach, Miami, Wilton Manors, Miami Beach, Bay Harbor Islands, El Portal, Key West and Tampa have enacted conversion therapy bans for minors. On June 6, the Miami-Dade County Commission approved an ordinance banning conversion therapy on minors at First Reading.  Final Reading should take place there later this summer. 

According to an Orlando Political Observer-Gravis Marketing poll of 1,243 Florida voters conducted April 4 through April 10, 71% think conversion therapy should be illegal for minors in Florida, 18% were uncertain and only 11% thought conversion therapy should be legal. The poll has a margin of error of 2.8%.

The Wellington (pop.62,560) ban on conversion therapy - and all of the similar bans enacted to date - applies only to state-licensed therapists. Unlicensed therapists, such as those associated with faith-based groups, retain their religious freedom to engage in such work. Additionally, adults remain free to seek out conversion therapy.  

Although there have been several court challenges to the constitutionality of banning conversion therapy, all have failed. On four occasions, most recently on May 1, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear challenges to the constitutionality laws banning conversion therapy for minors.

In addition, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Human Rights Campaign (a Washington, DC-based LGBTQ rights organization which is not affiliated with PBCHRC) filed a federal consumer fraud complaint with the Federal Trade Commission seeking to ban conversion therapy nationwide.

In late April, the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act of 2017 was introduced in Congress to crack down on conversion therapy. More than 70 members of Congress have gone on record in support of the bill. If enacted, the law would make sexual orientation change efforts illegal under the Federal Trade Commission Act and classify advertising these services or providing them in exchange for monetary compensation as fraudulent, unfair, and deceptive. The bill would also explicitly clarify that the Federal Trade Commission has the duty to enforce this provision and would further provide state attorneys general the authority to enforce it in federal court.

For the past two consecutive legislative sessions, State Senator Jeff Clemens (D-Atlantis) introduced bills to prohibit conversion therapy statewide.  However, the Florida Senate refused to take action on the bills. Clemens intends to reintroduce the bill in the 2018 legislative session.

"Hopefully, legislative leaders in Washington and Tallahassee will move forward on banning conversion therapy," said McGovern "However, until a national or statewide ban on conversion therapy is enacted, we are taking going to do all we can to protect LGBTQ youth here in Wellington,"