Florida Keys

Key West to outlaw ‘gay conversion therapy’ for minors

A 6-0 City Commission vote set the stage for the final reading of the proposed law.
A 6-0 City Commission vote set the stage for the final reading of the proposed law. Keynoter

Before casting a vote to make illegal gay-conversion therapy for children, Key West City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley gave his reason for bringing the issue up on an island where he knows of no instances of the much-maligned practice.

“The LGBTQ youth are born perfect and they all deserve to grow up knowing they are celebrated and valued for exactly who they are,” Weekley said before the commission voted 6-0 last Wednesday on the proposed law’s first of two required readings.

“We don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring,” Weekley said. “It’s the moral and ethical correct thing to do.”

Commissioner Richard Payne, a retired judge, called the practice “Voodoo counseling” and a form of fraud.

The law would levy a civil penalty for any Key West licensed counselor who does the therapy, meant to convert gay, lesbian, bisexual or questioning kids to a straight lifestyle. Conversion therapy is to try to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual.

Last week, the city of Toledo, Ohio, unanimously approved a ban on the therapy.

While the practice is rejected by the American Medical Association, it is common in places on the mainland.

“Conversion therapy is a form of abuse,” said M.J. Taylor of Key West.

Several locals said the measure is unnecessary since the therapy isn’t publicly advertised on the island, but Weekley said the ban is important to all. Natalia Duke, speaking on behalf Women’s March Florida, said helping keep safe LGBTQ youth is always a pressing issue.

“It lets them know they are supported, protected and respected by us as a community,” Duke said. “Now is the time to stand up for our principles and remember our city slogan, ‘One Human Family.’”

Even if someone requests the treatment, the conversion therapy can harm people, said one local professional counselor.

“There is no accepted psychological treatment for changing one’s sexual orientation because there’s no acceptance for the notion it needs to be changed,” said Elissa Bishop Becker. “It’s a religious and not psychologically based practice.”

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen