(WM) A petition calling for the ban of so-called gay conversion therapy for minors in Orange County, Florida has been launched on the website Change.org.
The petition, which can be found at ConvertToLove.org, has the support of local, state and national LGBTQ organizations including Equality Florida, The Trevor Project, Zebra Coalition, Orlando Youth Alliance (OYA) and One Orlando Alliance.
“The health and welfare of Orange County’s LGBTQ+ youth are a top priority of One Orlando Alliance. Coming out remains one of the most emotionally challenging decisions in a LGBTQ+ person’s life, often leading to rejection and depression,” said One Orlando Alliance Executive Director Jennifer Foster in a statement. “For many, especially our youth, acceptance is a matter of life or death. In order to realize a safe and inclusive community for all, we must do away with the harmful practice of conversion therapy.”
The act of conversion therapy has also been condemned by many local and state-level politicians and even members of Orange County’s school board.
“Conversion therapy has been shown to be abusive and damaging to children. It should be illegal,” Orange County District 3 School Board Member Linda Kolbert said in a statement. “As a school board member, I am responsible for the success, care and protection of all children. All means ALL.”
Helping to lead the charge against conversion therapy, LGBTQ activist Eric Rollings hopes that these efforts can collect at least 5,000 by the morning of July 29, which will be presented to the Orange County Commission.
“If we are going to bring this to the commission then it is vital that we have community support,” Rollings says. “When we’re losing so much hope and it feels like we’re losing control on a federal level, it is our responsibility to make sure that locally we have all the protections that we can, especially when it comes to our youth.”
Local activists and supporters of the conversion therapy ban will hold a rally at Stonewall Bar in Orlando on Aug. 15 from 5:30- 8:30 p.m. to help build more local support for this issue. The event will feature a collection of guest speakers that will include Zebra Collection Executive Director Heather Wilkie, OYA CEO Michael Slaymaker and former president of Exodus International, an Orlando-based pro-conversion therapy group, Alan Chambers.
Chambers publicly renounced conversion therapy in 2012 saying not only does it not work but it is actually dangerous and harmful to LGBTQ youth, something Rollings echoed with a chilling statistic.
“The suicide rate is eight times higher for people who have gone through or are going through conversion therapy,” he says. “Through this effort if we can save one life, if we can save one attempt at suicide, then it is completely worth it.”
To add your signature to the petition go to ConvertToLove.org