Following an initial vote of 4-1 in favor of enacting a ban on conversion therapy for minors earlier this month, the Wellington Village Council met again Tuesday in order to set the ban into effect, this time with a 3-2 vote.
“Tonight, Wellington took a strong stand to protect the village’s LGBTQ youth from the psychological and physical abuses related to conversion therapy,” Carly Cass, Vice President of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Campaign (PBCHRC) said.
The ban would prohibit doctors, osteopaths, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, marriage or family therapists and licensed counselors throughout Wellington from practicing conversion therapy — the attempt to “fix” or change the sexual orientation or gender identity of an LGBT individual —on minors.
This ban does not apply to members of the clergy unlicensed by the state.
“Wellington is a diverse, inclusive, safe community that strives to provide the best quality of life for its residents — most of all its children,” Vice Mayor John McGovern said. “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.”
The ban was not passed without opposition, however. Dr. Julia Harren Hamilton, a Palm Beach Gardens therapist and former president of National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) was one of the speakers who tried to prevent the conversion therapy ban from happening.
Hamilton warned Village Council Members that enacting the ordinance would prevent children, “distressed by homosexual attractions and feelings” from getting help.
“Sponsors of this ban are asking to make it illegal for therapists and clients to have [conversations] about change of attractions, behavior, or identity,” Hamilton told SFGN. “Making it illegal for certain conversations to take place would certainly constitute a violation of freedom of speech. Even if you do not like the idea of some teenagers wanting to pursue options for their lives rather than embrace a gay identity, everyone in America should be greatly concerned when lawmakers consider taking away freedom of speech.”
Many council members and members of PBCHRC disagree however, and and pointed out that the practice of conversion therapy has been discredited by many therapists, as well as the American Psychological Association (APA).
“The American Psychological Association has linked conversion therapy to depression, substance abuse and even suicide, and these risks are particularly acute for youth,” Carole Reyes, Youth Policy Council Coordinator of NCLR’s BornPerfect Campaign to end conversion therapy said.
“We applaud the efforts by the Village Council to ensure that the children of Wellington are protected from these harms, and that their families aren’t duped by trusted professionals whom the turn for support during a vulnerable time,” Reyes continued.
With this ban, Wellington joins the ranks of other South Florida cities who have banned conversion therapy including West Palm Beach, Key West, Tampa, Miami Beach, Wilton Manors, Delray Beach and others.
“Hopefully, legislative leaders in Washington and Tallahassee will eventually ban conversion therapy,” McGovern said. “However, until a national or statewide ban on conversion therapy is enacted, we are … going to do all we can to protect LGBTQ youth here in Wellington.”