Miami-Dade Commissioners Reject Conversion Therapy Ban

Allessandra Inzinna, feature editor

On Tuesday, Oct. 3 Miami-Dade commissioners rejected a ban on conversion therapy for minors. The 4-7 vote concluded after hours of testimony from mainly opponents of the ordinance, such as the Christian Family Coalition and Commissioner Sally Heyman, saying that it would interfere with parents’ decisions about mental health and sexuality for their children.

While many municipal governments in the greater Miami area such as Miami Beach, North Bay Village, Bay Harbor Islands, El Portal and the city of Miami have already banned conversion therapy, the proposal aimed to ban the practice that attempts to change a person’s sexuality in all of Miami-Dade County.

According to the Miami Herald, those that oppose the bill state that the vagueness of the wording in the bill would be enough to stop a conversation between a child and their parent expressing concerns about a child’s sexuality. Commissioner Joe Martinez, one of seven commissioners to vote against the bill, said the ordinance was a form of “stepping into their house” and therefore imposing on parents conversations with their children.

“The ordinance would have banned counseling, which by the way, is a form of speech,” Executive Director of the Christian Family Coalition Anthony Verdugo said. “Young people who are struggling with unwanted homosexual tendencies or inclinations or unwanted sexual identity issues have the option to go see a licensed professional about this matter.”

The Christian right popularized the practice of conversion therapy (also called ex-gay therapy or reparative therapy) in the ‘80s and ‘90s by pouring copious amounts of money and resources into painting homosexuality as a mental disorder they could “cure,” according to the Atlantic.

These claims have been discredited for decades now by most medical organizations, including the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association and the World Psychiatric Association and more have condemned any practices to try and change a person’s sexuality as ineffective and therefore unnecessary.

“It’s very troubling for the mind,” Gay-Straight Alliance club president and senior Noah Chevallier said. “I definitely think it’s incredibly inhumane.”

According to LiveScience, research into conversion therapy suggests that it can worsen feelings of self-hatred and anxiety. It has driven participants to suicide and depression.

However, while some organizations such as the ACLU denounce conversion therapy, they also work against some legislation to ban it. For example, the ACLU of Rhode Island argued against a ban on conversion therapy by stating that bills such as the one presented in Rhode Island could have unintended backfires, one of which allows just as much government intrusion on transition-related healthcare for young transgender individuals as it does on banning conversion therapy to begin with.

They also stated that medical professionals and organizations were more equipped to enforce any bans on conversion therapy, given their expertise on the subject, and that any legislation made would be based on politics instead of evidence.

“I believe that each person has the right to seek out that counsel and to have all these options presented to them before they make a decision,” Verdugo said. “We do live in a free society and we are entitled to them.”

Former president Barack Obama supported any bans on conversion therapy and as many as nine states including Washington D.C. have banned the practice for minors. Current president Donald Trump led a platform in support of what many perceived to be anti-LGBTQI+ pieces of legislation, including some that would allow parents to subject their children to conversion therapy, according to the New York Times.

“It’s going to be torture for your children. They’re going to hate it and they’re going to hate you,” Chevallier said. “It’s not effective, so why put your child through that?”