For a city recognized by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation Municipal Equality Index (MEI) for 2016, it was no surprise that the West Palm Beach City Commissioners unanimously approved “Ordinance No. 4666-16 Prohibiting the practice of conversion therapy efforts as to minors.”
The second reading and final vote on the ordinance took place at the November 7, 2016 City Commission Meeting and was introduced by Assistant City Attorney Zoe Panarites who announced that there had been no changes since the first reading on October 24, 2016.
She also told the Commissioners that the City’s expert, Dr. Rachel Needle was present for questions but did not plan to speak. Dr. Needle had previously provided detailed explanations about conversion therapy and the dangers involved with coercing youth to undergo such programs.
Mayor Muoio noted that there were speaker’s cards and she invited Julie Harren Hamilton, Craig Kerns and Rev. Jeremy McKeen, all of whom were opposed to the ordinance, expressing concern that it removed their freedom of speech and would reduce their options when treating young people who wish to be “rid of unwanted homosexual leanings.”
Commissioner Cory Neering (Dist 2) asked for confirmation that the City wasn’t violating other legislation to which Attorney Panarites assured him that she had done extensive re search of existing case law. She mentioned that there is permitted regulation of commercial speech and that’s what she followed among other lines of inquiry.
Commissioner Paula Ryan (Dist 3) expressed her belief that the City was in its rights to pass this legislation and has a duty to protect children from harm.
The Mayor called for a vote and the City of West Palm Beach joined the South Florida ranks of City of Miami, Miami Beach and Wilton Manors, all of which have passed similar protections.