Fla. lawmakers seek to ban gay conversion therapy

By Matt Horn, Reporter, Capitol News Service

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Following California and New Jersey, two Florida lawmakers have introduced legislation banning conversion therapy, which seeks to convert gay people younger than 18 to being straight.

Across the country, 16 states now recognize gay marriage. As the number grows, the two aformentioned states have also banned a controversial sexual orientation change therapy, which many mental health experts call harmful.

"But the diagnostic and statistical manual doesn't call sexuality, who you have sex with or what your sexual interests are, a disorder," mental health expert Kurt LaRose said.

Florida may join the list of states banning the therapy designed to change homosexuals to heterosexual. Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, introduced a Senate bill to ban the therapy for children younger than 18.

"Science tells and pretty much common sense tells us that the person's sexual orientation is decided genetically," Clemens said.

LaRose said the therapy can have negative affects on those seeking the treatment.

"The greatest risk is symptoms that look like a mood disorder, so depression," he said.

Supporting the therapy is South Florida marriage and family therapist Dr. Julie Hamilton. Hamilton has spoken publicly on helping those who have unwanted homosexual attractions.

"A lot of people believe it's biological, that people are born gay," Hamilton said. "But you know what, the research doesn't show that at all."

If the ban becomes law, it would be illegal for parents to force their children to go through the therapy.

"Parents who have very strongly held beliefs that their child shouldn't be gay or lesbian have tried to put their kids through this," Clemens said.

If passed into law, a child would still be able to receive counseling helping them cope with their sexuality.

One of the main conversion therapy organizations, Exodus International, shut down earlier this year.

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