After Hate Group Sues Tampa to Overturn Prohibition of Dangerous Conversion Therapy for Minors, Equality Florida Files Motion to Defend the Ban Alongside the City of Tampa

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 12, 2018
Contacts:
Elizabeth Johnson, SPLC
334-224-0059 / elizabeth.johnson@splcenter.org
Lauren Gray, NCLR
215-983-3099 / lgray@nclrights.org
Brittany Link, Equality Florida
678-634-5566 / brittany@equalityflorida.org

EQUALITY FLORIDA SAYS THE ORDINANCE PROTECTS YOUTH FROM THE “DECEPTIVE AND UTTERLY DISCREDITED PRACTICE OF SO-CALLED CONVERSION THERAPY”

TAMPA, Fla. – Equality Florida seeks to defend the City of Tampa’s ban on the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy for minors against a lawsuit filed by Liberty Counsel, an anti-LGBT hate group. A motion for Equality Florida to intervene was filed today by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the law firm Carlton Fields.

Conversion therapy – sometimes called “ex-gay therapy” – attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It has been discredited by the American Psychological Association and every other major professional health organization as ineffective, unethical and dangerous. Conversion therapy has been shown to lead to higher instances of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and even suicide.

As the state’s largest civil rights organization advocating on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents, Equality Florida played an integral role in the passage of Tampa’s ordinance, which prohibits licensed mental health professionals from performing conversion therapy on minors. The City of Tampa unanimously passed the ban in April 2017.

In December, Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit against the city, challenging the ban on behalf of Robert Vazzo and David Pickup – two licensed therapists who want to subject minors to conversion therapy – citing an alleged First Amendment violation. While Vazzo is licensed to practice in Florida, Pickup is not.

“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.”

Equality Florida today filed a motion to intervene as a defendant in the case alongside the City of Tampa, citing a direct and unique interest in the case. Equality Florida also filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, explaining that two federal circuit courts already have rejected similar constitutional challenges to near identical bans on conversion therapy. Finally, Equality Florida filed an opposition to the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction, demonstrating the significant harms that could befall Tampa’s youth if the ban on conversion therapy is enjoined and the plaintiffs are permitted to engage in conversion therapy.

“At Equality Florida, we fight to protect LGBTQ families and children, which is why participating in this lawsuit is at the core of our mission as Florida’s statewide LGBTQ organization,” said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida. “We worked closely with the City of Tampa, elected leaders, and members of the community to ensure LGBTQ young people are protected from this deceptive and utterly discredited practice of so-called conversion therapy.”

Liberty Counsel is known for filing litigation challenging the expansion of equal rights for the LGBTQ community – from defending anti-LGBTQ discrimination in businesses to fighting marriage equality. The SPLC identifies the Orlando-based organization as an anti-LGBT hate group.

Liberty Counsel has unsuccessfully challenged conversion therapy bans across the country. Following a 2012 challenge by Liberty Counsel, California’s statewide ban was upheld by a federal appeals court, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case. It also challenged New Jersey’s law banning conversion therapy, which the U.S. Supreme Court has let stand on two occasions.

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.

“Tampa has every right to protect its residents against unethical therapists who disregard the strong medical consensus that attempts to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity are not only ineffective, but dangerous,” said Carolyn Reyes, NCLR youth policy counsel who directs BornPerfect, NCLR’s national campaign to protect young people from the harms caused by conversion therapy. “Courts across the country have upheld these laws as valid regulations designed to protect vulnerable children from the serious harms caused by these unethical practices, and we are confident that Tampa’s law will be upheld as well.”

Equality Florida is committed to defending its 302,000 supporters, including those protected by the ban in Tampa and by other similar local ordinances. More than a dozen local governments in Florida – both cities and counties – have adopted conversion therapy bans, which is more than in any other state. After a unanimous vote on Tuesday, Broward County – Florida’s second largest county by population – became the most recent locality to adopt an ordinance prohibiting the harmful practice.

Motion to Intervene: https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/amended_motion_to_intervene.pdf

Motion On Preliminary Injunction: https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/amended_opposition_to_motion_for_preliminary_injunction.pdf

Motion to Dismiss: https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/motion_to_dismiss.pdf


The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, see www.splcenter.org.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. 

Equality Florida Institute is the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community. For additional information, visit www.equalityflorida.org.  

Carlton Fields has more than 300 attorneys and government and financial services consultants serving clients from offices in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, New York, and Washington, D.C. The firm is known for its national litigation practice, including class action defense, trial practice, white-collar representation, and high-stakes appeals; its insurance practice, including life and financial lines, property and casualty, reinsurance, and title insurance; its regulatory practice; and its handling of sophisticated business transactions and corporate counseling for domestic and international clients. The firm is committed to providing pro bono representation for the people and causes that most need them. For additional information, visit www.carltonfields.com and www.carltonfields.com/pro-bono/.  (Carlton Fields practices law in California through Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, LLP.)


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

Unanimous Vote: Florida County Protects LGBTQ Youth from Conversion Therapy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 9, 2018
Contact:
Lauren Gray, NCLR lgray@nclrights.org / (215) 983-3099

NCLR SAYS, “TODAY’S UNANIMOUS VOTE SPEAKS TO THE POWER OF SURVIVOR STORIES AND THE INDISPUTABLE EVIDENCE THAT CONVERSION THERAPY IS NOT ONLY INEFFECTIVE—IT DEVASTATES OUR YOUNG PEOPLE AND COMMUNITY”

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — (January 9, 2018) — Today, by unanimous vote, Florida’s Broward County voted to enact an ordinance to protect LGBTQ youth and prohibit the use of conversion therapy on minors. The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) submitted testimony to Broward County on the urgent need to stop harmful, dangerous conversion therapy and worked alongside Equality Florida and the Southern Poverty Law Center to push the ordinance forward. More municipalities in Florida have enacted ordinances prohibiting conversion therapy than in any other state.

“Today’s unanimous vote speaks to the power of survivor stories and the indisputable evidence that conversion therapy is not only ineffective—it devastates our young people and community,” said NCLR Youth Policy Counsel and Born Perfect Campaign Coordinator Carolyn Reyes. “NCLR is proud to have submitted testimony and worked hand in hand with Broward County, and NCLR’s Born Perfect campaign will keep working with states and local communities across the country to ensure that LGBTQ youth are protected—no matter where they live.”

Broward County, Florida, includes areas such as Fort Lauderdale, the Everglades, Hollywood, and Pompano Beach.

The practice of so-called “conversion therapy” has been discredited by the American Psychological Association and every other major professional health organization as ineffective, unethical, and dangerous. Conversion therapy has been shown to lead to higher instances of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and even suicide.

NCLR has been standing up on behalf of survivors of conversion therapy for the past 20 years. In 2014, NCLR launched its Born Perfect campaign, marking a commitment to a state-by-state advocacy campaign to end this practice across the country. NCLR has secured legislation protecting youth from these dangerous practices in California, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, Connecticut, Nevada, New Mexico, and Rhode Island—and numerous cities and counties across the country.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

New HRC, NCLR Parent Resource to Protect Children from Conversion Therapy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 11, 2017
Sarah McBride | Sarah.McBride@HRC.org | 302-598-4310
Lauren Gray | LGray@NCLRights.org | 215-983-3099

Critical New Resource for Parents on Protecting Their Children from Dangerous Conversion Therapy

HRC Foundation and NCLR release new guide to help families recognize conversion therapies

WASHINGTON – Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), a national legal organization committed to advancing LGBTQ equality since 1977, released Just As They Area comprehensive resource for parents on the harmful practice known as conversion therapy.

The guide helps parents recognize when and how conversion therapy is promoted, provides information about the dangers of the practice, and outlines best practices for parents seeking to promote the health and well-being of their LGBTQ child, including finding inclusive counseling services and churches. It features the voices of LGBTQ youth and young adults who have been subjected to this dangerous and debunked “therapy,” including Lynse, a gender non-binary and queer former congregant at Ted Haggard’s New Life Church, and Darren, a Black, gay, Christian man who once made his home in a church basement where he was forbidden from leaving without his pastor’s permission. Their stories highlight the devastating harm that conversion therapy, along with family and community rejection, can have on LGBTQ young people.

“Parents need and deserve information and guidance they can trust when they are helping their children navigate issues around their sexual orientation and gender identity, not discounted theories and dangerous so-called therapies,” said Mary Beth Maxwell, HRC Senior Vice President for Programs, Research and Training. “Even as more families within all faith communities open their hearts and embrace their LGBTQ loved ones, in too many homes across the country, LGBTQ youth continue to face rejection, bullying, and the harmful impacts of ‘conversion therapy.’ We must redouble our efforts to educate families and communities about the terrible dangers of efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity and that is why we are proud to partner with NCLR to release Just As They Are – so that parents have the information and resources they need to protect the health and wellbeing of their LGBTQ children.”

“The American Psychological Association has linked conversion therapy to depression, substance abuse and even suicide, and these risks are particularly acute for youth,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Youth Policy Counsel and Born Perfect Campaign Coordinator Carolyn Reyes. “That’s why Just As They Are is so critical. We need parents to know the signs, to recognize harmful and discredited conversion therapies, and understand the gravity of what’s at stake: the lives of our LGBTQ youth. All of our youth are born perfect.”

There is no credible evidence that conversion therapy can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. To the contrary, research has clearly shown that these practices pose devastating health risks for LGBTQ young people such as depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, homelessness, and even suicidal behavior. The dangerous practice is condemned by every major medical and mental health organization, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and American Medical Association.

The report comes one day after World Suicide Prevention Day, when LGBTQ advocates raised the alarm that lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their non-LGBTQ counterparts, and a shocking 41% of transgender adults report having attempted suicide, most before the age of 25.

NCLR and HRC have partnered with state equality groups across the nation to pass state legislation ending conversion therapy. Rhode Island recently became the eleventh jurisdiction — and the fourth state so far this year — to enact these crucially important protections. Connecticut, California, Nevada, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New York, and New Mexico all also have laws or regulations protecting youth from this abusive practice.

To read Just As They Are, visit http://www.nclrights.org/legal-help-resources/resource/just-as-they-are-protecting-our-children-from-the-harms-of-conversion-therapy/.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is the education arm of America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

NCLR files consumer fraud lawsuit against Berkeley therapist for conversion therapy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact:
Lauren Gray
Director of Communications
National Center for Lesbian Rights
Office: 415.365.1324
Mobile: 215.983.3099
LGray@nclrights.org


CONSUMER FRAUD LAWSUIT FILED AGAINST BERKELEY THERAPIST FOR CHARGING TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS FOR DISCREDITED CONVERSION THERAPY

Therapist pressured lesbian client to change her sexual orientation, shamed her, urged her to change her clothes and appearance and begin dating a man

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (July 13, 2017)—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP filed a complaint on behalf of Katherine McCobb, against California-licensed marriage and family therapist Lloyd Willey. Willey told McCobb that being a lesbian is unnatural and pathological and that her sexual orientation could be changed using therapy. The practice of conversion therapy has been discredited by the American Psychological Association and other professional counseling organizations as ineffective, unethical, and dangerous. McCobb paid Willey more than $70,000 for eight years of therapy based on fraudulent, harmful lies.

“Therapists who exploit vulnerable people by taking their money based on false claims that being lesbian or gay is unnatural and that counseling can change a person’s sexual orientation are engaging in fraud,” said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Price Minter. “Our complaint alleges that our client in this case paid tens of thousands of dollars based on false promises that therapy could change her attraction to women. Charging a person money based on such bald-faced misrepresentations violates California’s consumer protection laws.”

“Business professionals who are charging fees for services cannot make false and misleading statements about those services to their clients,” said Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP Partner Jeremy Kamras. “Our complaint alleges that the defendant did just that by persuading a vulnerable client to pay him for services based on blatant misrepresentations and fraudulent practices.”

McCobb began paying Willey for therapy when she was 25 years old. Although she did not seek out therapy because of her sexual orientation, Willey fixated on McCobb’s lesbian identity and began to pressure her to become straight, telling her that being a lesbian was unnatural and that she could “rewire” her brain. He publicly shamed her during group therapy sessions and urged her to change her appearance to be more stereotypically feminine, including losing weight, growing out her hair, changing her wardrobe, and wearing make-up. Willey also pressured her to begin dating a man who was also Willey’s client.

“I trusted my therapist, and I was defrauded of tens of thousands of dollars as a result,” said the plaintiff in this case, Katherine McCobb.

NCLR has been working to protect LGBTQ people from efforts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity for more than 20 years. In June 2014, NCLR launched #BornPerfect: The Campaign to End Conversion Therapy, a targeted campaign to end conversion therapy through litigation, public education, and  legislation.

To read the complaint, click here.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

Governor Brian Sandoval signs law ending conversion therapy in Nevada for LGBTQ youth

NCLR’S BORN PERFECT CAMPAIGN ADDS NEW WIN TO STATE-BY-STATE ADVOCACY EFFORTS

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (May 17, 2017)—Today, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed SB201 into law, putting an end to the fraudulent, harmful and unscientific practice of so-called “conversion therapy” in the state of Nevada for LGBTQ youth. Today’s bill signing was the result of targeted grassroots advocacy efforts by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Gender Justice Nevada, Kaempfer Crowell, and the Human Rights Campaign. NCLR has been standing up on behalf of survivors of conversion therapy for the past 20 years, and in 2014, launched its Born Perfect campaign—marking a commitment to a state-by-state advocacy campaign to end this practice in each state across the country.

National Center for Lesbian Rights Youth Policy Counsel and Born Perfect Campaign Director Carolyn Reyes issued the following statement in response:

“Today, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and elected officials have prioritized the safety, health, and well-being of LGBTQ Nevadans by putting an end to the discredited practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy.’ The American Psychological Association has linked conversion therapy to depression, substance abuse and even suicide—risks that are particularly acute for youth. Nevada knows that all of our children are born perfect.”


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

New Survey Shows Need to Protect Transgender Youth From Conversion Therapy

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (December 8, 2016)—Today, the National Center for Transgender Equality released the findings of the U.S. Transgender Survey, the largest survey of transgender people in the United States.  Conducted in 2015, the anonymous, online survey examines the experiences of 27,715 adults from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as three U.S. territories and U.S. military bases overseas.

Among the findings is that 18%—nearly one in five—of transgender people who had contact with a medical professional about their gender identity reported that the professional tried to stop them from being transgender.  Transgender people who had these negative experiences were also more likely to experience psychological distress, to have attempted suicide, run away from home, been homeless, and have engaged in sex work than those who did not have the experience. The survey also found that 14% of transgender individuals—more than one in 10—who disclosed their transgender identity to their family were sent to a professional to stop them from being transgender.

“This groundbreaking report underscores the vulnerability of transgender youth seeking professional support and the need for policies and legislation aimed at protecting these youth from unethical and potentially damaging treatment by mental health professionals. It also highlights the critical role of family support in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of transgender youth,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Youth Policy Counsel and #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator Carolyn Reyes. “No young person should ever be shamed by a professional into thinking that who they are is wrong. Mental health professionals, in particular, should provide care that is ethical and affirming for transgender youth and that assists families in supporting their transgender children.”

NCLR has been at the forefront of efforts to protect youth and their families from conversion therapy, and works closely with legislators and state leaders across the country to introduce bills protecting youth from these dangerous practices. In 2014, it launched its #BornPerfect campaign to stop conversion therapy across the country by 2019 by passing laws, fighting in courtrooms, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by attempts to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.