A 5-2 vote from Palm Beach County made history today by becoming the first county in Florida — as well as the largest county in the United States — to ban the practice of conversion therapy for minors.
Conversion therapy refers to a number of therapeutic methods aiming to change an individual's sexuality or gender identity. LGBT youth are usually placed into these types of therapy by their parents who believe that changing their sexuality is the best option.
However, the practice has been condemned by nearly every major psychological association including the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, World Health Organization, American Psychiatric Association and more, and has been found to lead lasting effects on children's’ propensity for intimacy, relationships and more.
“We applaud the efforts by the county commissioners to ensure that the children of Palm Beach County are protected from these harms, and that their families aren’t duped by trusted professionals to whom they turn for support during a vulnerable time,” Carolyn Reyes, the Youth Policy Counsel and Coordinator of the National Center for Lesbian Rights Born Perfect campaign to end conversion therapy, said.
She continued, “Numerous studies have linked conversion therapy to depression, substance abuse and even suicide, and these risks are particularly acute for youth.”
This ban, like the others enacted in Florida cities such as Miami Beach, Key West and Wilton Manors will only affect state-licensed psychologists and children under the age of 18. Clergy members and other non-licensed therapists are not affected by the ban and are still free to practice conversion therapy.
Alongside county commissioners, the ban was made possible by the efforts of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), NCLR and more.
This countywide ban will encompass 39 municipalities as well as unincorporated areas within the county, more than doubling the 16 cities in Florida that had previously passed similar bans. A number of states such as California, Nevada, Oregon and Vermont have passed statewide bans, but multiple attempts to enact the same statewide in the state of Florida have failed.
Broward County is working on a similar ban and is expected to enact it in January. Gainesville City Commissioners are also expected to enact a ban in the coming months.
“Palm Beach County made history today, becoming the first county in Florida to ban conversion therapy for minors,” Senior Policy Counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center Scott McCoy said.
“We applaud the county’s commissioners for supporting the well-being of LGBTQ youth, and for taking a stand against this extremely dangerous and fraudulent practice that claims to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity.”