Gainesville first north Florida city to ban conversion therapy

By : Jeremy Williams
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. | Gainesville became the first city in north Florida to ban conversion therapy for minors April 5 when the Gainesville City Commission unanimously voted to outlaw the practice.

The ordinance will “prohibit licensed professionals from engaging in counseling efforts, practices or treatments with the goal to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The new ban will not restrict practitioners who offer conversion therapy to anyone over the age of 18 and does not prevent religious leaders from recommending minors seek conversion therapy outside of the city limits in places that do not have a ban.

“It’s a bit serendipitous that there is nowhere else in North Central Florida that has taken action. But I’m hopeful that Gainesville is leading the way as an ally,” Alexander Chaves, LGBTQ affairs director for Student Government at the University of Florida, said to Gainesville’s local PBS station WUFT.

Equality Florida took to Facebook after the vote to congratulate the city of Gainesville and to thank the people who helped get the ban passed.

“We are so grateful to Gainesville’s City Commission, local advocate Human Rights Council of North Central Florida, and all the LGBTQ champions and allies who made this unanimous victory possible. Click “LIKE” to join us in celebrating this huge victory in support of LGBTQ youth! #BornPerfect,” the LGBTQ organization posted.

Gainesville becomes the 20th city, county or municipality to ban conversion therapy in the state of Florida, and only the second outside of south Florida. Tampa became the first non-southern area of the state to ban the controversial practice in April 2017.

In December 2017, the anti-LGBTQ group known as Liberty Counsel filed a suit against the city of Tampa for banning the practice of conversion therapy on minors, citing a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Florida has more local bans on conversion therapy than any other state without passing a statewide ban. Washington became the 11th state last month to ban the therapy joining Connecticut, California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New York, New Mexico and Rhode Island. The District of Columbia also has a ban in place.

Two more states may be joining that list as the State House’s for Maryland and New Hampshire have approved bills that would ban conversion therapy. It remains to be seen whether the measures will pass in the Senates or if the governors of each state will sign it into law.

(Image from City of Gainesville, FL – Government Facebook page.)

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