Broward commissioners pass gay conversion therapy ban

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A controversial form of therapy involving children is now banned in Broward County. Therapists who disagree and violate the ban will pay the price. Here’s 7’s Brian Entin with a follow-up to his investigation.

In a unanimous vote, the Broward County Commission passed a gay “conversion therapy” ban. Therapists in Broward will no longer be allowed to try to turn young people from gay to straight.

Rev. Leslie Rutland-Tipton: “I am asking you to protect the children who don’t have a decision and don’t voluntarily go into therapy but are forced into places they are not comfortable for things they cannot change.”

One by one, more than a dozen people urged commissioners to stop conversion therapy. Some called themselves survivors of the damaging treatment.

Ellen Feiler: “I myself went through this conversion therapy. It was not pleasant. It also did not work. I was miserable.”

Rev. Jerry Stephenson: “And I’m a survivor of it. I’m here today, and I thank God I am one of those able to tell my story.”

The conversion therapy ban prohibits licensed therapists from working with minors to try to “…change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

But there were therapists in the audience not happy with the decision, claiming they help children struggling with what they call “unwanted attractions.”

Robert Otto, therapist: “I don’t shock people. I don’t hook them up to a buzzer and a wall socket and flip a switch if they have a wrong thought. I listen to them, and I try to help them understand where those thoughts come from.”

But some of the most respected medical groups oppose conversion therapy. Experts said it can lead to depression and worse.

Eight South Florida cities have already passed local laws banning the controversial counseling, but Miami-Dade rejected a ban, allowing the therapy to continue.

In Broward, therapists who violate the ban will face a $250 fine.

Michael Rajner, Broward County Human Rights Board: “It wasn’t a surprise this commission was going to stand up once again to affirm all people, especially LGBT people in Broward County, to defend their rights as a vulnerable population.”

Groups against the gay conversion therapy ban have already threatened lawsuits against Broward County, but the county attorney said they are confident they can successfully fight those lawsuits.

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