The City of Oakland Park banned conversion therapy at Wednesday evening’s commission meeting.
In a 4-0 vote, commissioners outlawed the practice of changing a minor’s sexual orientation.
“As far as I’m concerned this ordinance aims to discourage an unethical business practice by licensed professionals in our city of Oakland Park and I think that’s well within our purview to do so,” said Commissioner Sara Guevrekian.
Oakland Park joins Wilton Manors as the two Broward County municipalities banning the practice of conversion therapy. Cities in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties have similar ordinances forbidding conversion therapy on minors. Nine U.S. states have statutes barring conversion therapy.
“This sends a message that our children are valued and respected for who they are,” said Justin Flippen, a Wilton Manors resident.
Flippen spoke to Oakland Park commissioners urging the ban. He said he was a “survivor” of conversion therapy.
“Being gay is not a choice and not a preference,” said Flippen, a lawyer and Wilton Manors commissioner.
Several people spoke in favor of the ordinance with one woman dissenting. Karen Gorsch said the ordinance puts parental rights “under attack.” The Margate woman said the ordinance denies the right to free speech and religious liberty.
Row Iliescu, development director for Equality Florida, said the antiquated notion that sexual orientation needs to be “fixed” is wrong. Iliescu celebrated the ordinance’s passing in the lobby of city hall with a little over a dozen residents who attended the meeting. The group then moved down the street to the Funky Buddha Brewery to continue their celebration.
Last week Boca Raton banned the practice in their city. Rand Hoch, president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, dismissed the argument that these bans intrude on the rights of parents.
“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.”