Riviera Beach City is joining the growing list of Florida cities who have banned the practice of conversion therapy on minors.
With help from the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, the action to ban conversion therapy was taken up by the Riviera Beach City Council who unanimously voted on their first reading to prohibit licensed mental health professionals from administering conversion therapy to minors.
“Conversion therapy is usually forced on minors by parents who find it impossible to accept the fact that their children identify as gay or lesbian,” PBCHRC Board Member Hutch Floyd said, according to a press release. “This so-called ‘treatment’ is extremely harmful.”
PBCHRC has partnered with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center to encourage cities in South Florida to incorporate a ban on conversion therapy for minors, and they have been met with success so far.
Florida cities that have banned the practice include West Palm Beach, Miami and Miami Beach, Wilton Manors, Bay Harbor Islands, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach and now Riviera Beach.
The ordinance for the ban in Riviera Beach was brought forth by City Councilwoman Dawn Pardo and Tonya Davis-Johnson.
“As an elected official, it is a key part of my job to take steps to protect children in Riviera Beach from abuse,” Davis Johnson said. “PBCHRC presented numerous scientific studies to the City Council and the experts all agree that conversion therapy … causes extreme emotional trauma to LGBT youth.”
Dr. Rachel Needle is a licensed psychologist in Palm Beach County who has been brought in to present arguments against the practice of conversion therapy to other South Florida City Commissions.
“Any ethical mental health practitioner should not attempt to cure or repair gender identity or sexual orientation through these scientifically invalid techniques,” Needle said. “Attempting to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity can have a devastating impact on a minor.”
The ban only applies to state-licensed therapists, and does not affect unlicensed therapists, such as those who practice under faith-based groups who retain their religious freedom to continue the practice. Adults are also still able to pursue conversion therapy.
While progress is being made in individual cities, last year State Senator Jeff Clemens (D) proposed a bill that would ban conversion therapy statewide. The Senate refused to take action on the bill, however, and Clemens plans to reintroduce it this year.
“Hopefully, legislative leaders in Tallahassee will schedule a hearing on Senator Clemens’ bill this year,” Davis-Johnson said. “However, until a statewide ban on conversion therapy is enacted, we are … going to do all we can to protect LGBT youth here in Riviera Beach.”