Tampa Council to weigh gay "conversion therapy" ban Thursday

click to enlarge Tampa Council to weigh gay "conversion therapy" ban Thursday
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Despite monumental gains for LGBT equality in recent years, advocates are bracing for a rough time as the Age of Trump ensues.

Hate crimes against a variety of minority groups have seen an apparent uptick, and it's no different for the LGBT community. Over the weekend, one couple was the target of harassment and threats in the Keys and a trans woman was killed in Louisiana.

Meanwhile, Trump reversed President Obama's protections for transgender students and Vice President Mike Pence's position on whether or not you can pray the gay away, a debunked practice known as conversion therapy, remains questionable.

That's why on Thursday, Tampa City Hall will likely be packed with LGBT equality advocates, who will ask the City Council to pass a measure barring some organizations that practice conversion therapy from carrying it out on gay youth.

It's not that the practice is incredibly common in Tampa, or that the city can prevent religious organizations (like this one) from trying to make people stop being gay (because of the First Amendment).

It's that, like several cities and counties in South Florida, activists want to send the message that the city accepts LGBT community members as they are.

"We are trying to make sure that Tampa continues to be a welcoming and friendly city to the LGBT community and its youth," said Kate Connolly, who is leading the charge to get as many activists and allies to City Hall on Thursday as possible to their message will get through.

Lawmakers throughout the country have opted to pass such a ban at the state level, including California, Illinois, New York and Oregon. But in Florida, Connolly said, it's not a good idea to hold one's breath and wait for the State Legislature to pass such a bill, given their reluctance to passing laws that aim to protect the LGBT community. There is one proposed law that would ban the practice in the State House, but it's unlikely to get much traction within Florida's largely ultraconservative legislature.

While Thursday's measure is largely symbolic, given First Amendment limitations, it could help protect youth from being subjected to the practice, which can involve such "therapeutic" practices “until they are old enough to make that decision.” Connolly said.

Tampa City Council will weigh the draft ordinance Thursday morning at nine, and members of the public will be allowed to comment.

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