Metro Weekly

Florida village takes first step in banning conversion therapy

South Florida village is the latest in a string of localities to prohibit sexual orientation change efforts on minors


Wellington Village Council – Photo: Village of Wellington.

The Village Council in Wellington, Fla., has taken the first step in banning the practice of conversion therapy.

On Tuesday, the Village Council voted 4-1 to approve an ordinance that prohibits licensed therapists from subjecting minors to any number of treatments or therapies intended to forcibly change one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Wellington Mayor Anner Gerwig was the sole vote against the ordinance.

“Wellington is a diverse, inclusive, safe community that strives to provide the best quality of life its residents — most of all its children,” Wellington Vice Mayor John McGovern, who co-sponsored the ordinance, said in a statement. “Allowing any child to be exposed to the critical health risks associated with sexual orientation change efforts, without any clear evidence that such change is even possible, is inconsistent with our community.”

“Conversion therapy has been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades. Not only is it proven to be ineffective, but these so-called treatments can cause psychological harm to minors,” said Napoleone, the measure’s other co-sponsor. “This is a practice that is all harm and no good.  Being gay is not a a disorder that requires treatment. We have the authority as a Village to protect minors from the harm caused by conversion therapy and I am strongly in favor of banning such practices in Wellington.”

As with other conversion therapy legislation passed elsewhere, the ordinance does not apply to ministers or clergy who serve in an advisory role, unlicensed counselors, or licensed counselors not acting in a professional capacity. It also does not prohibit minors from seeking counseling or other guidance regarding feelings of same-sex attraction.

The ordinance has been a priority of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, which has successfully pushed bans on conversion therapy in several other jurisdictions within South Florida. They are partnering with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center as it attempts to put protections in place for LGBTQ youth.

“Conversion therapy is an extremely dangerous and fraudulent practice that claims to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” Scott McCoy, senior policy counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in a statement. “This bogus practice is premised on the lie that LGBTQ individuals have a ‘condition’ that needs to be cured. This evening, the Wellington Village Council took a step in the right direction by enacting this ordinance to ban this harmful practice on minors. The commission has sent a message to LGBTQ youth: ‘You are perfect the way you are and do not need to be ‘fixed.'”

Bills to ban conversion therapy or prosecute its practice as a form of fraud have been introduced in Congress and in the Florida Senate, but neither body has even held a hearing on the matter. As such, there is no state or national law

“Hopefully, legislative leaders in Washington and Tallahassee will move forward on banning conversion therapy,” McGovern added. “However, until a national or statewide ban on conversion therapy is enacted, we are taking going to do all we can to protect LGBTQ youth here in Wellington.”

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