Broward moves to ban ther­apy to con­vert gays

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Larry Barszewski Staff writer

Chil­dren in Broward County could soon be pro­tected from con­tro­ver­sial con­ver­sion ther­apy prac­tices that try to make gay kids straight.

County com­mis­sion­ers di­rected staff Tues­day to bring back a pro­posal that would ban the prac­tice of con­ver­sion ther­apy for mi­nors.

The goal of the ther­apy is to change a mi­nor’s sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity. It tar­gets chil­dren who are gay, les­bian, bi­sex­ual, trans­gen­der or ques­tion­ing their sex­ual iden­tity.

“It’s a dan­ger­ous, hor­rific process that hurts young peo­ple,” Com­mis­sioner Nan Rich said. “This is some­thing that should not be per­pe­trated on chil­dren. You have chil­dren that end up com­mit­ting sui­cide. Their

whole lives are threat­ened by this.”

Con­ver­sion ther­apy can in­volve coun­sel­ing ses­sions fo­cused on tra­di­tional gen­der no­tions, where gay chil­dren and teens are told they can change their ori­en­ta­tion and be­come a “real man” or “fem­i­nine woman.” On­line ad­ver­tise­ments for the ther­apy say in­di­vid­u­als deal­ing with “un­wanted same-sex at­trac­tion” can be helped through “in­ten­sive emo­tional-heal­ing work.”

The Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics and the Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion have op­posed con­ver­sion ther­apy on mi­nors, Rich said.

A com­mis­sion-ap­proved ban would ap­ply coun­ty­wide, al­though ci­ties would have the abil­ity to opt out or write their own or­di­nance if they chose to do so.

Wil­ton Manors and Oak­land Park al­ready have bans in place in the county over the use of such ther­apy by li­censed pro­fes­sion­als. Other South Florida bans are in ef­fect in Boca Ra­ton, Mi­ami, Mi­ami Beach, West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Boyn­ton Beach, Del­ray Beach, Welling­ton and Key West.

Palm Beach County com­mis­sion­ers are ex­pected to vote on a ban this month. Mi­ami-Dade County com­mis­sion­ers re­jected a ban in Oc­to­ber.

The Broward com­mis­sion’s sup­port for a ban was ev­i­dent after most com­mis­sion­ers asked Tues­day to be co-spon­sors of the leg­isla­tive ban pro­posed by Rich.

In other ac­tion Tues­day, com­mis­sion­ers:

Ap­proved an agree­ment with HomeAway.com to be­gin hav­ing its clients pay the county’s 5 per­cent ho­tel bed tax Dec. 1. The tax will in­crease to 6 per­cent in Jan­uary. The county has a sim­i­lar agree­ment with Airbnb, which be­gan col­lect­ing the tax in May. County Ad­min­is­tra­tor Bertha Henry said it’s pos­si­ble the HomeAway.com col­lec­tions could be as much as — if not more than — the taxes re­ceived from Airbnb, which are ex­pected to ex­ceed $1 mil­lion an­nu­ally.

Urged Mi­ami Seaquar­ium to re­tire Lolita, its en­dan­gered orca whale, and re­lo­cate her to a sanc­tu­ary with the goal of her even­tual re­lease back into her nat­u­ral habi­tat in the wa­ters of the Pa­cific North­west.

Asked staff to re­search changes to the county’s Liv­ing Wage or­di­nance. The pro­posal would in­crease the rate from $12.03 to $13.01 an hour when health in­sur­ance is pro­vided for cov­ered county em­ploy­ees, and from $13.59 to $16.10 an hour with­out in­sur­ance. The changes are be­ing pushed by sub­con­tracted air­port em­ploy­ees who have been cov­ered by the county or­di­nance for two years.

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