Sunday, July 17, 2016

W. Palm Beach and Palm Beach County considering banning conversion therapy for LGBT children

June 21, 2016

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council has asked the City of West Palm Beach and Palm Beach County to ban conversion therapy.  West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio and Palm Beach County Mayor Mary Lou Berger have directed their legal departments to research our request and to draft ordinances for consideration by the City and County Commissions.  PBCHRC is working closely with the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) , which has had great success on these initiatives.

Check out excerpts from an article in today's Sun-Sentinel about the efforts with the County:


Palm Beach County considering a ban on conversion therapy for gay, lesbian children

By Skyler Swisher
Sun-Sentinel reporter
June 21, 2016

Palm Beach County could become one of the first communities in Florida to ban conversion therapy for children - a practice in which therapists attempt to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

County Mayor Mary Lou Berger said Tuesday she would support the ban if county legal staff determines it's within the County Commission's authority.
The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, an advocacy group, is pushing for county commissioners to take up the issue.

"It is still something licensed practitioners here in Florida can do," said Rand Hoch, president and founder of the council, which supports equal protections for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. "Other states have taken position this is not good medicine, not good psychology. This is actually harmful."

If successful, Palm Beach County would become the first county in Florida to ban conversion therapy for people under the age of 18.

Efforts to pass a ban at the state level have failed in the Florida Legislature, and Miami Beach is the only local government board to prohibit conversion therapy for minors, according to the group.
Gay teenagers have been told in counseling sessions they are not actually gay and can change. The therapy stresses being a true man or a feminine woman, playing up traditional gender notions.

Conversion therapists advertise online that they can "address unwanted same-sex attraction" and offer weekend retreats that offer "intensive emotional-healing work." One service advertises, "You'll stand eye to eye with another man while we help you process whatever feelings might arise."

Conversion therapy is not taught in accredited psychiatric or mental health training programs, and leading medical groups have denounced it, said Dr. Jack Drescher, a professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College and an expert on sexual orientation and gender identity.

"Most practitioners are not licensed, and it is not in mainstream activity," he said. "If you want to learn conversion therapy, you have to learn it on the street."

The American Psychological Association has concluded trying to change someone's sexual orientation can cause depression, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse.

But the therapy is still offered under the radar - mostly by therapists affiliated with religious groups and people calling themselves "life coaches," Drescher said. Hoch said he's not aware of any licensed therapists in Palm Beach County offering conversion therapy, which is also known as reparative therapy.

Drescher said he views bans, such as the one Palm Beach County is considering, to be mostly symbolic because they are difficult to enforce. The measures do help to raise awareness about the issue, he said.

Conversion therapists have challenged bans unsuccessfully in federal court. They dispute that sexual orientation is innate and cannot be changed. They argue a person's sexual identity can be influenced by childhood trauma and can be changed with therapy.

Earlier this month, Miami Beach became the first governmental entity in Florida to prohibit the controversial counseling for anyone under the age of 18.

In Miami Beach, therapists who offer conversion therapy could be subject to a $200 fine each day they offer the counseling.

California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and the District of Columbia have passed laws prohibiting licensed mental health providers from offering conversion therapy to children, according to Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT civil rights advocacy organization.

No comments:

Post a Comment