Miami-Dade County will not be joining Delray Beach, Wellington and a number of other Florida jurisdictions banning the harmful practice of gay conversion therapy.
In a 4 to 7 vote, Miami-Dade commissioners concluded that the ordinance’s wording was too broad and could potentially affect pastors’ sermons and parent’s concerns over their child’s sexual activity. The proposed ordinance, the commissioners believe, would violate a parent’s right to make decisions concerning their children’s mental health.
“In this case, my problem is with the rights of parents,” said Commissioner Rebeca Sosa according to The Miami Herald. Sosa voted against the ban. “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.”
Also voting against the ban were Commissioners Esteban Bovo, Jose Diaz, Jean Monestime, Joe Martinez, Xavier Suarez and Javier Souto.
“Why is this even in front of us?” asked Commissioner Martinez. “You can’t tell me what I should tell my child, or what I can’t. You’re stepping into my house.”
Commissioners in favor of the ordinance recognize assuming a child’s sexual identity needs to be “fixed” is ultimately harmful — a belief backed by many medical organizations.
“The American Psychological Association has linked conversion therapy to depression, substance abuse and even suicide, and these risks are particularly acute for youth,” said Youth Policy Council Coordinator of NCLR’s BornPerfect Campaign to End Conversion Therapy Carole Reyes said when Wellington moved to ban the practice.
The commissioners voting “yes” on the ban were Bruno Barreiro, Diana Levine Cava, Audrey Edmonson and Sally Heyman.
“What you’re doing is telling that child you’re not accepting them as they are,” Edmonson said.
Miami, Miami Beach and other parts of Miami-Dade county already ban conversion therapy. This ordinance would have applied to outside city limits.
Broward county cities, such as Wilton Manors, also ban the practice. Wilton Manors Vice Mayor Justin Flippen faced conversion therapy in his youth.
“Conversion therapy is so harmful and rejected,” he said according to the Herald. “Being gay is not a choice. It is not a preference. It is a part of me as much as my eye color is.”
Palm Beach county is currently drafting regulations to ban therapists from trying to change a child’s sexual identity, according to the Sun Sentinel.
Cities that currently ban conversion therapy include West Palm Beach, Wilton Manors, Key West, Tampa, Miami Beach, Wellington, Delray Beach and more.
“It is an unfortunate setback for Miami-Dade County, but should have no effect elsewhere in the state. Last night the Oakland Park City Commission unanimously passed a ban on First Reading,” Rand Hoch, president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. Hoch and the PBCHRC have been instrumental passing similar bans throughout Palm Beach County. “We also have some things in the pipeline before year's end here in Palm Beach County. I have advised the appropriate elected officials and staff about the loss in Miami-Dade and no one is even considering backing off from their support of the proposed bans we are working on in Palm Beach County.”