On Thursday, Miami commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to ban a form of therapy aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
On Nov. 20, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that Florida bans on conversion therapy are unconstitutional. According to the ruling, “the first amendment does not allow communities to determine how their neighbors may be counseled about matters of sexual orientation or gender.”
This came as a severe setback for the LGBTQ communities that for decades have been trying to eradicate a practice focused on changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and which has been strongly rejected by the American Psychiatric Association and every mainstream medical and mental health organization.
But on Thursday, Miami commissioners showed their support for LGBTQ communities by approving a resolution greenlighting the city to file an amicus brief to defend Boca Raton’s authority to ban conversion therapy. The resolution was approved unanimously after a federal appeals court overturned the city’s ban on Nov. 22, barring other Florida municipalities from implementing similar bans.
The city of Miami, the first city in Florida to pass a ban on conversion therapy in 2016, is helping write the brief. It is also calling on other municipalities to join in the effort. In order for the judges to consider its arguments, the city must file the brief by Dec. 18.
A Danger to LGBTQ Youth
Tony Lima, a Miami-Dade County LGBTQ advisory board member and a strong proponent for the passage of the bans, replied to the reference to the first amendment by pointing out that “freedom of speech stops when the lives of our LGBTQ youth are in danger.” He added what mental health authorities have been saying for decades: that conversion therapy “leads to depression, which often leads to suicide.”
In fact, Lima is backed by the American Psychological Association (APA) which criticized the appeals court ruling to overturn the bans.
“Sexual orientation change therapy is highly unlikely to change a patient’s sexual orientation and there is real evidence of harm, according to a 2009 study of the peer-reviewed scientific literature conducted by the American Psychological Association,” said APA President Sandra L. Shullman, PhD.
The idea behind these treatments is that any sexual orientation other than heterosexuality is flawed and must be “fixed.” But the APA strongly rejects these claims. “Based on the available research, APA rejects the presumption that a gay or lesbian young person must change,” Shullman said.
A Human Issue
The APA also shared with the court the concern about the potentially harmful effects on minors who cannot legally consent to such procedures.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, this form of therapy is a dangerous practice, and minors are especially vulnerable, as conversion therapy can lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide.
“This is not a partisan issue, this is a human issue, and we really need to take care of our kids,” said Miami Commissioner Ken Russell, who championed the resolution and worked to recruit representatives from other municipalities across the country with similar bans in place.