State Representative David Richardson declares victory against conversion therapy in south Florida House district

By : Billy Manes
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Tallahassee – Gay state Rep. David Richardson took a stance early in this legislative session against so-called conversion therapy, the anti-LGBTQ means of “correcting” behaviors of the gay community. House Bill 273 presents a strong statement against the psychological manipulation of LGBTQ youth by therapists, arguing that conversion therapy – which can often include electric-shock therapy – must not be used on minors. In 2015, President Barack Obama made it clear that the nation, under his administration, would not accept “reparative” therapy, due to its destructive effects on patients.

“We share your concern about its potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer youth,” his department said in a statement. “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”

But that message hasn’t been heard by all states, and, according to Richardson, it will likely gain no traction in Florida. Most of Florida, that is.

Richardson took to Facebook in early March to celebrate the victory, if only on a small level, of anti-conversion therapy ordinances in municipalities. Richardson took his seemingly wasted effort to Miami Beach last March having found no traction in the halls of the Tallahassee capitol. The city of Miami Beach took to banning the process and was followed by the city of Miami. North Bay Village just recently followed suit. He says “six or seven” different cities from Miami-Dade County have been pressing the issue, as it isn’t moving anywhere in the Tallahassee legislature.

“Conversion therapy is now banned in the entirety of House District 113,” he proclaimed online.

It’s just a glimmer of hope for advocates that are fighting the routinely disgraced methods of praying away the gay. Wilton Manors has followed suit; Tampa is on the cusp. The notion of utilizing counties and cities to alter state politics is nothing new, just as it’s nothing that has not been cracked down upon. Efforts to secure earned sick time in Orange County were shot down in Orange County – and in Tallahassee – after the notorious fumble known as “textgate” in 2012. After commissioners were accused of using private devices for communications during public meetings, the dais was fined and the county paid up $90,000 after a contentious legal battle. That battle led to the legislature ruling that municipalities had no ability to make regional rulings on matters of private business, a measure that passed on party lines.

And it doesn’t look like a statewide ban on conversion therapy is anywhere in the script for right now, Richardson says. Efforts to even strike the marriage ban from Florida’s state constitution have been met with shrugs.

“[House Speaker] Richard Corcoran doesn’t have any interest in even uttering the word ‘gay’ right now,” Richardson says. “We can’t even clean up a statute that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against. And all he says is, ‘Sorry, Dave. I just can’t help you right now.’”

Small victories are still victories, Richardson says. In terms of the Competitive Workforce Act, presented again this year as a means of bringing equality to the state’s LGBTQ residents, he thinks there may be some wiggle room. Though some advocacy groups have said that pulling the whole bill down and breaking it into three more palatable parts is ill-advised, Richardson believes in incremental gains.

“I don’t think there will be any [progressive] bill that will move through the House,” he says, adding that breaking them up into more palatable pieces could help. “We’re not getting anywhere. It’s been the same fight for 10 years. I’m a person who is willing to take something over nothing as long as it doesn’t go against my core values.”

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