A bill that would ban the practice of administering gay conversion therapy to minors in Florida has advanced through the House and Senate.
The bills, HB 137 and SB 258 “Conversion Therapy,” also known as “ex-gay therapy,” would make it illegal for counselors or any other licensed mental health professionals to perform conversion therapy on anyone under 18. Gay conversion therapy is the practice of trying to change the sexual orientation of individuals from homosexual to heterosexual.
Miami Beach Democrat David Richardson, the first openly gay man to be elected as a state representative, is the sponsor of HB 137. Dania Beach Democrat Evan Jenne is the co-sponsor.
Lake Worth Democrat Jeff Clemens is the sponsor of the Senate Bill with no co-sponsor so far.
Richardson, who has introduced multiple bills dealing with the LGBT community, including HB 1151, which would remove gender specific terms in relation to adoption documents, sponsored a similar bill in 2014. HB 221 and SB 240 “Sexual Orientation Change Therapy,” both died in committee.
In its rejection of conversion therapy, the American Psychological Association [APA] reaffirmed its findings that homosexuality is a normal part of human sexuality and not in need of changing. The APA found that the benefits claimed by those in favor of conversion therapy, such as higher self-esteem and acceptance by others, “can be gained through approaches that do not attempt to change sexual orientation.”
And while no reliable data has been provided that shows conversion therapy succeeds in changing sexual orientation, the APA found that “distress and depression were exacerbated. Belief in the hope of sexual orientation change followed by the failure of the treatment was identified as a significant cause of distress and negative self-image.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign [HRC], California, New Jersey, Oregon and the District of Columbia have already prohibited conversion therapy from being administered to minors and 18 other states, including Florida, have introduced bills to do the same.
On its website, the HRC opposes the practice. “Many right-wing religious groups promote the concept that an individual can change his or her sexual orientation, either through prayer or other religious efforts, or through so-called ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy. The limited research on such efforts has disproven their efficacy, and also has indicated that they can be affirmatively harmful.”
A message left with Richardson’s office was not returned in time for publication.