Florida leads nation, introduces bill to end conversion therapy in 2019 legislative session

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. | Florida became the first state nationwide to introduce legislation to end conversion therapy in the 2019 legislative session Nov. 21.

State Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Democrat who represents Florida’s 37th district in Miami-Dade, introduced Senate Bill 84 (SB 84) to protect LGBTQ youth from the discredited practice.  Conversion therapy purports to change a child’s sexual orientation and gender identity using “psychological or spiritual intervention.” It is widely opposed by prominent health associations including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“In most states it is still legal to force children into conversion therapy and that is wrong. When it comes to this debunked practice, there is no conversion and there is no therapy,” Javier Rodriguez released in a statement. “So-called conversion therapy does not work because youth are who they are. They should be supported rather than shamed.

“More importantly, the practice we seek to ban is not therapy,” he continued. “The long-term, even lethal, damage it does to youth is well documented. If you’re going to be a licensed practitioner in Florida, refraining from harming our youth with this debunked practice should be a basic requirement.”

The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth, celebrated the news in a release and via Twitter:

“The Trevor Project is deeply invested in ending conversion therapy in every state because we know youth who experience rejection from their family are more than 8 times more likely to attempt suicide than youth from accepting families,” CEO and Executive Director Amit Paley said.

“Conversion therapy is a profoundly dangerous form of rejection with no basis in medicine or science,” she continued. “Unless lawmakers act to end the practice in every state, countless LGBTQ youth will be subjected to forms of conversion therapy in the next few years.”

Equality Florida Public Policy Director Jon Harris Maurer echoed Paley’s assessment. “Conversion therapy is a deceptive and utterly discredited practice that targets some of the most vulnerable in our state – LGBTQ young people,” he said. “It’s time to put an end this dangerous abuse disguised as medical treatment.”

Javier Rodriguez thanked The Trevor Project and Equality Florida for their dedication to protecting LGBTQ youth via Twitter. “By passing SB 84 Florida would do its part by preventing licensed practitioners from exposing youth to dangerous and debunked #ConversionTherapy.”

The Trevor Project notes that 34 states have introduced legislation to protect youth from conversion therapy and 14 have signed them into law. To learn more about the organization’s 50 Bills, 50 States initiative, click here.

Photo via Florida’s Capitol Complex.

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