Judge stops parts of Tampa’s same-sex ‘conversion therapy’ ban

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Free speech or harmful action?

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A federal magistrate is stopping the enforcement of a portion of Tampa’s ordinance prohibiting same-sex conversion therapy for minors.
The U.S. magistrate judge issued a preliminary injunction on Wednesday.

Magistrate Judge Amanda Arnold Sansone’s recommendation then goes to the US District Court, which then decides whether or not to uphold it. 

The injunction stops the city of Tampa from banning conversion therapy involving talking, but it would allow the ban to be applied to techniques like electroshock therapy. Conversion therapy – sometimes called “ex-gay therapy” – attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Conversion therapy ban challenged by an organization labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The ordinance was approved in 2017 and challenged by a Christian ministry, Liberty Counsel, and therapists who practice conversion therapy last December. They claimed it violated their free-speech rights.  Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit against the city, challenging the ban on behalf of Robert Vazzo and David Pickup.  Robert Vazzo is licensed to practice in Florida. David Pickup is not.

The plaintiffs in the suit against Tampa – Vazzo and Pickup – also are veterans in the fight against conversion therapy bans. Both were plaintiffs in Liberty Counsel’s failed challenge of the conversion therapy ban in California, where both men have offices. Though Vazzo is licensed in the state of Florida, his offices are in Las Vegas and Culver City, Calif. Pickup, who is not licensed in Florida, has offices in Dallas and Los Angeles.

The challengers asked for a preliminary injunction that would stop the ordinance’s enforcement while the lawsuit makes its way through the courts. The case now goes to a district judge.

“Conversion therapy has been discredited by virtually all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations, and worse, it causes real harm to those exposed to it,” said Scott McCoy, senior policy counsel for the SPLC. “When the City of Tampa adopted this ordinance last year, it chose to shield LGBTQ youth from this heinous practice and its harmful effects. We support Equality Florida’s stand to ensure that the well-being of these children remains protected.”

The American Psychological Association opposes therapy seeking to change sexual orientation, saying it doesn’t work and can cause harm.

Information in this story comes from the Associated Press and the NCLR.