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Florida county considers ban on gay conversion therapy for children

The Broward County Commission in Florida is considering a ban on therapy that seeks to turn children from gay to straight. In Florida, eight cities have passed local laws to ban conversion therapy. (Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/Getty Images)

The Broward County Commission in Florida could end a controversial therapy program designed to convert children from gay to straight, according to a report by WSVN-TV.

If the proposed ordinances are approved, the county would bar licensed therapists from using "conversion therapy" on minors in an attempt to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Justin Flippen, vice mayor of Wilton Manors, a city in Broward County, told WSVN-TV that he supports the ban. As a young adult, Flippen participated in conversion therapy. He said he was told by therapists that being gay is “a sin, an abomination, outside of God’s will."

“I was pleading with God. ‘It’s been almost two years. I’m not changing. What’s wrong with me?' ” he said.

How does conversion therapy work?

Conversion therapy uses a variety of techniques designed to change people from gay to straight. These can include prayer or other religious activities, along with “aversion therapy, shock therapy, harassment, and occasional physical abuse,” the Huffington Post reported.

The methods used in conversion therapy can lead to anxiety, depression, drug use, homelessness and suicide for some participants, critics claim.

“We want to make sure that it doesn’t happen and that we protect the well-being of children and youth in our community,” Broward Commissioner Nan Rich told WSVN-TV.

In contrast, conversion therapy is favored by some conservatives and Christian groups. The Republican Party's platform discussions in 2016 opposed same-sex marriage and endorsed conversion therapy, Time magazine reported.

What about 'Christian' therapy?

Supporters of conversion therapy say the methods used are overly exaggerated by LGBTQ lobbyists. As a result, an effort is underway to change the term conversion therapy to Christian therapy.

The Resurgent, an online Christian group, says liberals are trying to restrict their religious freedom.

"Make no mistake, these 'organizations' ... are Christian counseling services, located either in churches or in the marketplace," Peter Heck, a conservative commentator, told Business Insider in May. "Contrary to the hyperbolic nonsense that is spewed out by the LGBTQ political lobby, there are no electroshock therapy joints zapping unsuspecting gays into paralysis."

South Florida therapist Julie Hamilton called the proposed ordinances "unlawful and unconstitutional.” She also told WSVN-TV she doesn't like the phrase "conversion therapy," because no one should be forced to participate.

“We are only talking about the clients who want change," she said. "Those who do not want change are not a client. They can’t be.”

When will this be decided?

The Broward County Commission is expected to vote on the conversion therapy ban Tuesday. If approved, therapists who violate the ban would face a $250 fine.

“I’m a survivor, and a pretty well-adjusted one, but I saw other young people in these sessions that struggled emotionally, mentally with who they felt they were and what they were being told by these professionals," Flippen said.

In Florida, eight cities have passed local laws to ban conversion therapy. However, a ban was voted down in Miami-Dade County.

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