Five years ago this month the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council launched the Boca Bigots Run City Hall campaign to bring attention to what they perceived to be 20 years of slights against the LGBT community.
This week the city banned conversation therapy for minors with the PBCHRC singing the City’s praises. Boca Raton joins a growing list of cities around the state that have enacted similar ordinances.
What a difference five years can make.
"So much has changed in Boca Raton regarding LGBTQ issues,” said Rand Hoch, president of PBCHRC. “Five years ago, it took almost two full years for ua to convince the Boca Raton City Council to enact four ordinances providing LGBTQ rights and benefits. In contrast, thanks to Mayor Susan Haynie, the ordinance to protect LGBTQ youth by banning conversion therapy was not even perceived as controversial. It sailed through the city council in less than two months. That's progress!"
Five years ago the assistant city manager at the time went so far as to compare LGBT rights to that of pet owners.
“What’s to keep other groups from wanting to be protected?” he said. “How about me? I’m a pet lover. I think should be included in your anti-discrimination law. Someone who has dogs should not be discriminated against either.”
That was then. This is now.
“Every study documented that there is a significant potential for children undergoing conversion therapy to be harmed psychologically," Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie was quoted as saying in press release from PBCHRC. "While banning conversion therapy does not appear to be a priority action in either Tallahassee or Washington, DC. tonight Boca Raton took another step to protect LGBTQ youth in our city from the harms of conversion therapy,”
Haynie is the only person still on the council from that time period. Back then she was Deputy Mayor.
Other cities that enacted bans on conversion therapy for minors include West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Riviera Beach, Miami, Wilton Manors, Miami Beach, Bay Harbor Islands, El Portal, Key West, Wellington, Tampa and Greenacres. Meanwhile Oakland Park is expected to enact a similar ban on October 18.
In most of the above cities the vote was unanimous. The notable exception was Wellington where 2 of the 5 council members voted against it. Meanwhile Miami-Dade became the first place to reject a ban when the commissioners voted 7-4 against it.
“In this case, my problem is with the rights of parents,” Miami-Dade Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, who voted against it, told the The Miami Herald. “If you make a decision about your children that, in the end, is wrong, that’s your responsibility … I think government has to be respectful of that right.”
In many cases the opposition has framed the argument around infringing upon the rights of parents.
One opponent told the Wellington Council: “A ban on conversion therapy on unwanted homosexual feelings or gender dysphoria would, in fact, be child abuse. How can you take away the rights of children and their parents to their freedom of speech?”
“Parents’ rights are not unfettered. We have laws that prevent parents from giving their children certain prescription drugs because they have been proven harmful to children. We have laws that prevent parents from serving alcohol to minors, because alcohol have been shown to be harmful to children,” Hoch said. “Additionally, there are many other laws that must be adhered to regardless of the views of parents, such as compulsory education. So, there is no merit to the arguments that parents should be allowed to subject their children to harmful conversion therapy.”
Almost every major medical and psychological association opposes conversion therapy including the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association.
Palm Beach County is expected to take up issue later this year.