PUBLISHER’S COMMENT: At the request of Mayor Haynie, a ordinance banning the practice of ‘conversion therapy’ by licensed mental health professionals was introduced and passed by the City Council on Tuesday, October 10.

Ordinance 5407 championed by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC) is based upon a ‘model ordinance’ aimed at protecting minors from being ‘exposed’ to a procedure known as ‘conversion therapy’. The ordinance was the first item in the public hearing section of the City Council’s agenda, and, although it references extensive studies, no testimony or evidence was offered to the City Council at the less than 5 minute public hearing on the subject. (see the 2 minute video excerpt of the City Council meeting).

CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO….

Reading the Mayor’s introductory letter and the 10 page ordinance (see attachment below) takes longer than the entire discussion by the City Council…Within minutes after the City Council meeting ended, PBCHRC published the article below announcing that Boca Raton has now joined a list of other municipalities in Palm Beach County adopting such legislation. PBCHRC’s article informs on the failed efforts to have this legislation passed by the state legislature and indicates that there is an ongoing effort to get the Palm Beach County Commission to pass a county-wide ban based upon this same model ordinance.

Without passing judgment on the medical and psychological issues raised by such a prohibition, there are many reasons for concern when a local government imposes restrictions on licensed professionals while exempting unlicensed others from acting in the prohibited manner. It should also be of great concern when local government imposes a public policy that interferes with the licensed therapist/patient relationship to say nothing about the parent-child relationship; to wit: an incredible overreach.

Why would the Boca Raton City Council adopt such an ordinance? Not a rhetorical question especially after both the City Manager and City Attorney informed the council of ‘enforcement’ concerns. Why would the City Council adopt an ordinance that is incredibly ineffective to accomplish its stated objectives? Moreover, why would the City Council adopt an ordinance that the state legislature has declined to enact statewide?

Politics….that’s why….

The political ambitions of some City Council members would suggest that alienating PBCHRC’s political influences and voting base would be harmful for the ambitions of elected officials seeking higher office. It is no secret that some of our City Council members have their sites set on higher office and, one wonders if these political ambitions may be the unspoken reason for acting on this ordinance.

Let’s examine this theory….

1) Mayor Susan Haynie is expected to announce her run for the County seat being vacated by termed limited County Commissioner Steve Abrams;

2) Councilmember and CRA Chair Scott Singer is widely expected to run for mayor of Boca Raton when Mayor Haynie vacates the seat for the County;

3) Councilmember Robert Weinroth is seeking re-election and rumored to be looking at higher office at the end of his final term in Boca Raton;

With this in mind, it is easy to see why these local elected officials would be willing to pass legislation that is such a dramatic overreach.

Councilmember Jeremy Rodgers voiced concern for this ordinance based upon the arguments that this is a statewide issue and not that of the individual local government, and, secondly, based upon the administration’s caution concerning the enforcement challenges. Councilmember Andrea O’Rourke has been unequivocal to date that higher office is not in her future.

As indicated earlier, the item was presented without fanfare in the public hearing section of the council’s agenda.  No evidence was presented to the Council to support adopting such an ordinance; no one from PBCHRC was present to offer argument on the issue…and less than 5 minutes were spent considering the implication of the ordinance….

This was a done deal before it even came into the Council chambers….Politics and political ambition can be the only explanation….certainly not motivations based upon good governance principals….

The City Council should reconsider this ordinance. At least one Council member should bring a motion to reconsider this matter at the next scheduled City Council meeting giving proper notice and opportunity for interested parties in the Boca Raton community to voice their support or opposition on this public policy matter.

Al Zucaro, Publisher

Ordinance_No._5407: Consent Agenda

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The following article was extracted from an email sent by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council

Boca Raton Enacts Ordinance Protecting LGBTQ Youth from Discredited “Conversion Therapy”

At last night’s meeting, the Boca Raton City Council voted to enact an ordinance to prohibit conversion therapy for minors by licensed professionals. The ban takes effect immediately.

Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, or sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), encompasses a range of discredited 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 Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC), the county’s most effective civil rights organization, asked the city to enact the ordinance. Over the past 29 years, the independent non-profit organization has succeeded in having local public officials enact more than 120 laws and policies providing equal rights, benefits and protection for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ)  community.

Over the past year, PBCHRC has been successful in convincing elected officials in West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Riviera Beach, Wellington and Greenacres to prohibit conversion therapy for minors.

PBCHRC is partnering with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center.  Both organizations have been successful in their efforts to protect minors from being subjected to the harms caused by conversion therapy.

“Conversion therapy is an extremely dangerous and fraudulent practice that claims to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Scott McCoy, senior policy counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “This bogus practice is premised on the lie that LGBTQ individuals have a ‘condition’ that needs to be cured. This evening, the Boca Raton City Council took a step in the right direction by enacting this ordinance to ban this harmful practice on minors. The city council has sent a message to LGBTQ youth: ‘You are perfect the way you are and do not need to be ‘fixed.'”

Dr. Rachel Needle, a licensed psychologist and a leading expert on conversion therapy, notes that the practice of conversion therapy is based on two false premises.

“First, it is based on the falsehood that being gay, lesbian or transgender is a mental disorder or defect that needs to be cured,” said Needle. “And second, it is based on the presumption that being LGBTQ is something that can actually be changed through therapy.”

Needle, who is also an adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern University, states that 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.

“Any ethical mental health practitioner should not attempt to cure or repair gender identity or sexual orientation through these scientifically invalid techniques,” Needle added. “Attempting to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity can have a devastating impact on a minor.”

“The discredited practice of conversion therapy has long been rejected by virtually all of our nation’s mainstream medical, psychiatric, psychological and mental health organizations,” said PBCHRC Board Member Trent Steele, an attorney who has spearheaded the organization’s yearlong project to ban conversion therapy throughout Palm Beach County.

“Instilling self-hatred in children is not therapy,”said Steele.

PBCHRC presented the city with more than a dozen studies on conversion therapy conducted by professional organizations over the past twenty years,

“Every study documented that there is a significant potential for children undergoing conversion therapy to be harmed psychologically,”said Mayor Susan Haynie.

Allowing anyone to expose children to such harm is inconsistent with the values of the City of Boca Raton,” Haynie added.

Advocates for the rights of children in Palm Beach County have been in the forefront of the opposition to conversion therapy for many years.

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. .

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 soc-called reparative treatment relied entirely on anti-LGBTQ bigotry and a clear distortion of scientific data.

“The American Psychological Association has linked conversion therapy to depression, substance abuse and even suicide, and these risks are particularly acute for youth,” said Carolyn Reyes, Youth Policy Counsel and Coordinator of NCLR’s BornPerfect Campaign to end conversion therapy  “We applaud the efforts by the Commission to ensure that the children of Wellington are protected from these harms, and that their families aren’t duped by trusted professionals to whom they turn for support during a vulnerable time.”

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.” (www.splcenter.org/20160525/quacks-conversion-therapists-anti-lgbt-right-and-demonization-homosexuality).

Across the nation, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, the District of Columbia, Pima County (AZ), Cincinnati (OH), Seattle (WA), Pittsburgh (PA), Toledo (OH), Columbus (OH), Allentown (PA), Dayton (OH) and Athens (OH) have laws preventing licensed mental health providers from offering conversion therapy to minors. (New York’s ban is uniquely the result of an order signed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and not legislation.)

Boca Raton joins more than a dozen other Florida municipalities — West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Riviera Beach, Miami, Wilton Manors, Miami Beach, Bay Harbor Islands, El Portal, Key West, Wellington, Tampa and Greenacres — which have already enacted conversion therapy bans for minors. In addition, Oakland Park is expected to enact a similar ban on October 18.

Before year’s end, Palm Beach County Commissioners will consider a countywide ban.

According to an Orlando Political Observer-Gravis Marketing poll of 1,243 Florida voters conducted April 4 through April 10, 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%.

The Boca Raton conversion therapy ordinance – and all of the similar ordinances enacted to date – applies only to state-licensed therapists. Unlicensed therapists, such as those associated with faith-based groups, retain their religious freedom to engage in such work. Additionally, adults remain free to seek out conversion therapy.

Although there have been several court challenges to the constitutionality of banning conversion therapy, all have failed. On four occasions, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear challenges to the constitutionality laws banning conversion therapy for minors.

Last April, 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.

State Senator Jeff Clemens (D-Atlantis) introduced a bill for consideration by the 2018 Florida Legislature to prohibit conversion therapy on minors statewide. However, similar bills filed by Clemens in the 2016 and 2017 legislative sessions were never heard.

“While banning conversion therapy does not appear to be a priority action in either Tallahassee or Washington, DC,” said Haynie. “tonight Boca Raton took another step to protect LGBTQ youth in our city from the harms of conversion therapy.”