(SS) Children in Broward County could soon be protected from controversial conversion therapy practices that try to make gay kids straight.
County commissioners directed staff Tuesday to bring back a proposal that would ban the practice of conversion therapy for minors.
The goal of the therapy is to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It targets children who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender or questioning their sexual identity.
“It’s a dangerous, horrific process that hurts young people,” Commissioner Nan Rich said. “This is something that should not be perpetrated on children. You have children that end up committing suicide. Their whole lives are threatened by this.”
Conversion therapy can involve counseling sessions focused on traditional gender notions, where gay children and teens are told they can change their orientation and become a “real man” or “feminine woman.” Online advertisements for the therapy say individuals dealing with “unwanted same-sex attraction” can be helped through “intensive emotional-healing work.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association have opposed conversion therapy on minors, Rich said.
A commission-approved ban would apply countywide, although cities would have the ability to opt out or write their own ordinance if they chose to do so.
Wilton Manors and Oakland Park already have bans in place in the county over the use of such therapy by licensed professionals. Other South Florida bans are in effect in Boca Raton, Miami, Miami Beach, West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Wellington and Key West.
The Broward commission’s support for a ban was evident after most commissioners asked Tuesday to be co-sponsors of the legislative ban proposed by Rich.
In other action Tuesday, commissioners:
-- Approved an agreement with HomeAway.com to begin having its clients pay the county’s 5 percent hotel bed tax Dec. 1. The tax will increase to 6 percent in January. The county has a similar agreement with Airbnb, which began collecting the tax in May. County Administrator Bertha Henry said it’s possible the HomeAway.com collections could be as much as — if not more than — the taxes received from Airbnb, which are expected to exceed $1 million annually.
-- Urged Miami Seaquarium to retire Lolita, its endangered orca whale, and relocate her to a sanctuary with the goal of her eventual release back into her natural habitat in the waters of the Pacific Northwest.
-- Asked staff to research changes to the county’s Living Wage ordinance. The proposal would increase the rate from $12.03 to $13.01 an hour when health insurance is provided for covered county employees, and from $13.59 to $16.10 an hour without insurance. The changes are being pushed by subcontracted airport employees who have been covered by the county ordinance for two years.