Ending Conversion Therapy (Part II) Religious Freedom Laws (Part I) SB2 starts at 16:04. Sam Wolfe -- Southern Poverty Law Center So-called .conversion therapy. has ensnared numerous LGBT people--often youth--with its ...
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A three-judge federal panel recently green-lighted a controversial form of treatment for minors that major health and medical organizations question or oppose.
Supporters call the treatment for people with same-sex feelings, behaviors or identities talk-therapy/counseling; opponents know it by the names reparative or conversion therapy.
The November 20, 2020 decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled in favor of two Boca Raton therapists. They challenged Boca Raton and Palm Beach County laws that banned the practice. Two judges appointed by former President Trump voted to strike down the bans, finding the laws violated the First Amendment rights of the therapists and potential clients.
"Speech does not need to be popular in order to be allowed," wrote Judge Britt Grant. "The First Amendment exists precisely so that speakers with unpopular ideas do not have to lobby the government for permission before they speak."
Grant continued, "This decision allows speech that many find concerning even dangerous. But consider the alternative. If the speech restrictions in these ordinances can stand, then so can their inverse. It comes down to this: if the plaintiffs' perspective is not allowed here, then the defendants' perspective can be banned elsewhere."
The majority concluded First Amendment protections apply because the therapists were using "purely speech-based therapy" and had a right to "speak freely with clients."
Sandra Shullman, the president of the American Psychological Association, was puzzled by the decision. In a statement after the court ruling, she cited "concern about the likely harmful effects on minors who cannot legally consent to such procedures." She added, "The presumption behind these treatments is that any sexual orientation other than heterosexuality is inherently flawed and must be fixed. Based on the available research, APA rejects the presumption that a gay or lesbian young person must change."
A number of other prominent health and medical organizations also oppose the controversial treatment, including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American School Counselor Association, according to a Jan. 26 resolution approved by the Cooper City Commission. The resolution in the affluent Broward County community passed 4 to 1. The nonbinding resolution backs the banning of conversion therapy and the reconsideration of the three-judge panel's decision by the full Court. It was introduced by Max Pulcini, a Democrat.
"I'm very concerned with issues that affect the residents of my community," he said via email. "One of my top areas of concentration has been getting the City involved in providing resources in assisting those in need of mental health help. Like many, I was unaware of the horrendous reality of what many of our children have been going through. I proposed this item in a spirit of solidarity with those who feel disenfranchised and isolated because of perceived differences. My goal is to bring everyone together by pointing out our similarities. After all, we're all in this together."
This is one side of the debate. What do the people who fought to overturn the ban say? To learn, I emailed Liberty Counsel, the Orlando-based organization that supported the two therapists in their lawsuit.
The questions I sent to Liberty Counsel and Dr. Julie Hamilton, one of the therapists in the case, follow. I did not find an email address for Dr. Robert Otto, the other therapist in the case.
- About how many people practice reparative/conversion therapy in Florida?
- About how many minors got this treatment in the last year or so?
- Can you describe how reparative/conversion therapy is practiced by groups and individuals you know and trust in Florida?
- What are the benefits of reparative/conversion therapy?
- Do youngsters usually seek this type of help at the behest of a parent or guardian? On their own? Or both?
- What is the success rate for reparative/conversion therapy?
- Are there sometimes unintended consequences to this type of treatment? Does it not work or even harm some youngsters?
- Should localities in Florida be able to ban reparative/conversion therapy? I'm assuming your answer is no, so why not?
- Are there other ways to help young people deal with their sexual feelings, identities and behaviors that don't involve reparative/conversion therapy?
- Is there anything else you'd like to say that my questions did not give you a chance to say?
Holly Meade, the director of communications at Liberty Counsel, replied to my email. She said, "Here are our press releases regarding the counseling bans. Our counselors provide talk therapy, not conversion therapy, which is a political term and not accurate."
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