At its meeting on Oct. 24, the West Palm Beach City Commission voted unanimously to move “Ordinance No. 4666-16: Prohibition of conversion therapy as to minors” to the next step: a public hearing and second reading scheduled for Nov. 7.

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC) encouraged City officials to support the ordinance.  W. Trent Steele has taken the lead on the ordinance for the organization and noted that “Mayor [Jeri] Muoio has often expressed her concern about conversion therapy and its use with young people.”

Muoio introduced the item and Assistant City Attorney, Zoe Panarites spoke briefly listing some of the states and municipalities that have banned use of such practices.  The list includes Miami, Miami Beach, Wilton Manors, Cincinnati, Vermont, the District of Columbia and several more.  She then introduced the City’s expert, Dr. Rachel Needle, a licensed psychologist who practices in West Palm Beach.

Dr. Needle detailed the history of conversion therapy and how every major medical organization has condemned the practice as ineffective and even harmful when inflicted on already fragile children.

Public comment elicited two speakers opposed to the ordinance.  One was a young man who seemed confused about Commission procedures. The second was Julie Harren Hamilton, a psychiatrist who practices conversion therapy in West Palm Beach.  A visit to her website shows a connection between her practice and the anti-gay organization, NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality).

Before the vote, several of the commissioners spoke in support of the ordinance and expressed pride that their city was in the vanguard of protecting LGBT children.