PBCHRC’s goal is to prohibit the practice of conversion therapy for minors throughout Palm Beach County.

Conversion therapy, also known as “ reparative therapy” or “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE), encompasses a range of discredited and non-effective counseling practices by which health care providers or counselors seek to change a person's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression through aversion treatment. The practice is based on two false premises:

● that being LGBTQ is a mental disorder or defect that needs to be cured
● that being LGBTQ can actually be changed through therapy.

No ethical mental health practitioner should attempt to cure or repair gender identity or sexual orientation through these scientifically invalid techniques, since attempting to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity can have a devastating impact on a minor.

The potential risks of conversion therapy on children include shame, guilt, depression, decreased self-esteem, increased self-hatred, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends, social withdrawal, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, hostility and blame towards parents, high risk behaviors, confusion, self-harm, substance abuse and suicidal ideation.

Although mental health practitioners have been conducting conversion therapy on LGBTQ patients for more than 40 years, the practice gained popularity in the late 20th century, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), popularized conversion therapy.

NARTH was a small, but well-funded, for-profit organization made up of therapists who sought to diminish the rights of LGBTQ people by singling them out as having mental disorders. The organization advocated anti-LGBTQ therapy for children as young as three years old and encouraged parents to have their children marginalize and ridicule their LGBTQ classmates. In November, 2009, more than 100 demonstrators turned out to protest the NARTH conference in West Palm Beach at which conference organizers held workshops to train therapists how to convert LGBTQ individuals to become heterosexuals.

Dr. Julie Harren Hamilton, a licensed therapist with an office in Palm Beach Gardens and a former NARTH President, is a strident advocate for protecting the rights of therapists to engage in conversion therapy nationwide. To see how out of touch Dr. Hamilton is with reality, please view her video at Homosexuality 101.

Nearly every major medical and psychological association in the country has come out in opposition to conversion therapy. These include the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American College of Physicians, the American Counseling Association, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American School Health Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, the Pan American Health Organization, the Regional Office of the World Health Organization and the World Psychiatric Association.

In August 2009, the American Psychological Association adopted the "Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts," which found that the so-called therapy relied entirely on anti-LGBTQ bigotry and a clear distortion of scientific data.

In addition, conversion therapy has been soundly rejected by the American Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Education Association and the School Social Work Association of America.

Last May, the Southern Poverty Law Center published a comprehensive report entitled "Quacks: 'Conversion Therapists,' the Anti-LGBT Right, and the Demonization of Homosexuality." To view the report, go to the Southern Poverty Law Center's website.

Across the nation, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, the District of Columbia, Cincinnati (OH), Seattle (WA), Pittsburgh (PA), Toledo (OH), Columbus (OH) and Philadelphia (PA), all have enacted laws protecting LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy. In addition, New York State has taken administrative action to making it unlawful for licensed mental health providers to engage in conversion therapy for minors.

In Florida, West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Riviera Beach, Miami, Wilton Manors, Miami Beach, Bay Harbor Islands, El Portal, Key West, Tampa and Wellington have already enacted ordinances to protect LGBTQ youth from this abusive practice.

According to an Orlando Political Observer-Gravis Marketing poll of 1,243 Florida voters conducted April 4 through April 10, 2017, 71% think conversion therapy should be illegal for minors in Florida, 18% were uncertain and only 11% thought conversion therapy should be legal. The poll has a margin of error of 2.8%.

Earlier this year, the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act of 2017 was introduced in Congress to crack down on conversion therapy. More than 70 members of Congress have gone on record in support of the bill. If enacted, the law would make sexual orientation change efforts illegal under the Federal Trade Commission Act and classify advertising these services or providing them in exchange for monetary compensation as fraudulent, unfair, and deceptive. The bill would also explicitly clarify that the Federal Trade Commission has the duty to enforce this provision and would further provide state attorneys general the authority to enforce it in federal court.

For the past three legislative sessions, State Senator Jeff Clemens (D-Atlantis) introduced bills to prohibit conversion therapy statewide. However, neither the Florida Senate nor the Florida House of Representatives has ever held a hearing on the bill. Clemens intends to reintroduce the bill in the 2018 legislative session.

Until Congress and The Florida Legislature takes action, we need to ensure that our locally elected officials enact laws banning conversion therapy throughout Palm Beach County.