Florida lawmakers seek a statewide ban on conversion therapy in 2020

By : Jeremy Williams
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(Photo from Equality Florida’s Facebook)

TALLAHASSEE, Florida | Equality Florida was joined by state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez (D- Miami) and state Rep. Michael Grieco (D-Miami Beach) in hosting a press conference at the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee Nov. 5 to discuss legislation that would enact a statewide ban on the widely discredited practice of so-called conversion therapy on minors.

House Bill (HB) 41 — filed in the Florida House on Aug. 9 by Grieco — and Senate Bill (SB) 180 — filed in the Florida Senate on Aug. 23 by Rodríguez — both seek to prohibit licensed practitioners from performing conversion therapy on minors and leaving any practitioners who do so subject to disciplinary proceedings by the state’s Department of Health and appropriate boards.

HB 41 has been co-sponsored by 21 other state representatives and SB 180 was co-introduced by Sen. Linda Stewart (D- Orlando) and Sen. Gary Farmer (D- Fort Lauderdale). This is the second year in a row in which Grieco and Rodríguez have filed joint bills calling for a statewide ban on conversion therapy.

“I gave a speech on this exact issue last year and Sen. Rodriguez and I both filed the same bill last year,” Grieco said from the State Capitol Building’s fourth floor rotunda. “I was looking over my words from last year and talking about what is essentially child abuse, state sanctioned child abuse.”

Grieco spoke about dropping his child to school in Miami Beach last week and being aware that they walked past the office of an individual who performs conversion therapy.

“It sickens me that the state of Florida issues professional licenses to individuals who essentially abuse children, who pretend to be somehow participating in science when there is no reputable organization anywhere in the world that can say conversion therapy is anything but child abuse,” Grieco said.

The practice of conversion therapy has been discredited by all major medical groups including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association with each organization stating it has not only been shown to be ineffective, but actually has a negative impact on youth who experience it.

“Conversion therapy is not conversion and it is not therapy,” said Rodríguez during the press conference. “It’s been debunked. What we ought to be doing is affirming LGBTQ youth and again not putting the state’s blessing behind the infliction of trauma.”

Currently, 18 U.S. states, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, have bans on conversion therapy for minors. Florida currently has more than 20 bans in various cities, counties and municipalities with several of them being challenged in the courts. A recent court decision in Tampa struck down its ban with the judge stating “Substantive regulation of psychotherapy is a state, not a municipal concern.”

“My call to action for … my colleagues here up in the House and Senate is to go and grab a couple other members of the House and Senate who have not historically co-sponsored this bill and get them to put their name on it,” Grieco said. “Put pen to paper, put their money where their mouth is so we can end this.”

If passed, a statewide conversion therapy ban would go into effect July 1, 2020.

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