A six-to-one vote by Palm Beach County commissioners on Tuesday, Dec. 5 place Palm Beach one vote away from banning conversion therapy in all 39 of the county’s municipalities.
Conversion therapy is the use of a number of psychological and counseling tactics in attempts to “cure” or change an LGBT individual’s sexuality or gender identity to be straight or cisgender.
The commission will meet later this month for the final vote to decide if doctors, osteopaths, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, marriage or family therapists and other counselors licensed by the State of Florida will be banned from administering the harmful therapy on minors under the age of 18 throughout Palm Beach County.
“Children are almost always forced into conversion therapy by parents who find it impossible to accept the fact that their children identify as gay or lesbian,” Rand Hoch, the President and Founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council said. “Instilling self-hatred in children through psychological torture is not therapy.”
PBCHRC asked the county to enact the ban last year, and the organization has also played a role in passing many of the 16 conversion therapy bans currently in place in Florida cities.
According to an Orlando Political Observer-Gravis Marketing poll, 71 percent of Floridians believe conversion therapy on minors should be banned and only 11 percent believed it should be legal.
At the forefront of opposition to these bans is Dr. Julie Harren Hamilton, a local psychologist who practices conversion therapy and has pushed campaigns against these bans in eight Florida cities — all of which have passed conversion therapy bans for minors.
In all of the Florida bans enacted, only state-licensed psychologists are barred from practicing on children under the age of 18. Adults are still free to seek conversion therapy treatment from licensed counselors, and clergy and other unlicensed counselors are not governed by these bans.
With that being said, these bans send a message to parents who believe that conversion therapy is a responsible way to deal with their child’s homosexuality or gender identity — that conversion therapy is dangerous, as stated by the American Psychological Association as well as nearly every other major medical and psychological association.
“As a county commissioner, it is my duty to work to ensure the safety of our residents — especially our children,” Mary Lou Berger, the commissioner who brought the ordinance forward on behalf of PBCHRC said. “Conversion therapy has been rejected by virtually every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades. No child in Palm Beach County should be subjected to this so-called treatment.”