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Conversion therapy has no place in Hillsborough County

The Diversity Advisory Council of Hillsborough County passed a resolution to oppose the practice of conversion therapy for LGBT+ youth within Hillsborough County with a 9-3 vote on wednesday.

USF student and Diversity Advisory Council member Matthew Chernesky proposed the resolution that would seek to ban any practice that would encourage minors to try to change either their sexual orientation or gender identity. Conversion therapy practices include everything from therapists advising heterosexuality, to such extremes as electric shock therapy.

This resolution should be encouraged in Hillsborough County and should be approved by the county commissioners who will be set to vote on this resolution. However, the comments made by the minority on the Diversity Advisory Council shows there is still a profound amount of ignorance on this issue that is damaging to the mental health of many LGBT+ youths.

During the rigorous debate one such councilwoman, Yvette Jones, even went so far as to say that, “I think as parents we should have that right to be able to go and pointedly say ‘yes, I want my child to try to be straight please help them.’”

Rather than overtly supporting conversion therapy another Council member Terrence Kemple made the dissenting argument by explaining how the issue could involve Hillsborough County in legal trouble.

This was a clear attempt to support conversion therapy without getting the associated baggage.

In 2017 a conservative group, Liberty Council, sued the Tampa City Council, which passed a similar ban that same year. Kemple made the argument that if Hillsborough County were to pass the resolution, they would simply be tangled up in the courts along with the City Council.

“The stand has already been made,” Kemple said.

His argument fails to take into account the importance of standing in solidarity with all who oppose these barbaric practices. If more counties and cities continue to implement these bans, it will put pressure on the courts to support the best interest of Florida youth.

When asked why the ban was important to implement Chernesky answered, “Most residents of Hillsborough were not protected from the original Tampa ban and these youth are vulnerable to scientifically unfounded practices that teach them that their sexuality is an illness or the result of trauma in their life. That's absolutely untrue and this ban is a common-sense and non-partisan measure to protect our kids who may be forced into this type of malicious therapy.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign, individuals who go through conversion therapy are eight times more likely to commit suicide and six times more likely to report a high level of depression.  

The Williams Institute at the University of California released a study in 2018 that estimated that 20,000 LGBT+ minors will experience conversion therapy before adulthood. The people of Hillsborough County should work hard to ensure none of those experiences will take place here.

The county commissioners must make it a priority to unequivocally support the resolution to ban these harmful practices and support the effort of other municipalities that have made this important stand.