Broward County bans gay conversion therapy on minors

16 other Florida municipalities have outlawed practice

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Broward Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to ban licensed mental health professionals from practicing gay conversion therapy on minors in the county.

Broward County joins Palm Beach County and 15 other Florida municipalities -- including Wilton Manors and Oakland Park -- that have outlawed the practice on people under 18. Eight states have also banned the therapy.

Miami-Dade commissioners rejected a proposed ban in October.

Gay conversion, or reparative therapy, is designed to change a person's sexual orientation using psychological or spiritual means. 

Proponents say the treatment helps people with unwanted homosexual desires lead heterosexual lives. Other variations focus on changing transgender people.

However, mental health experts and gay rights activists say the therapy is harmful and question its effectiveness. Activists say many of the participants are forced by family members to take part in the treatments.

The ordinance differentiates between professional counseling and religious counseling. The ordinance only affects licensed mental health professionals.

Violators are subject to a $250 fine.

Equality Florida issued a statement before the board meeting, encouraging the ban.

"Minors  are  especially vulnerable  to  the  dangers  of  conversion  therapy,  which  has  been tragically  proven  to  lead  to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, self-harm and suicide," the statement reads.