JACKSONVILLE, Fla – Legislators are touting a bill to ban in some cases what's known as conversion therapy. H.B. 83 and S.B 204 tackles the issue of sexual orientation change efforts. The bill's aim to prohibit licensed professional counselors and various practitioners from attempting to change someone's sexual orientation who is under the age of 18.
State Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach filed H.B. 83, he is also the state's first openly gay legislator. S.B. 204 was introduced by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth.
"This is so important as a bill, we need people to realize they can't damage their kids in this way," said Emily Peters.
She has a personal stake in the Conversion Bill. Designated male at birth, she's transgender and says she's been told by family and church members time and time again that she is in fact a he.
"You're being threatened well you will go do this therapy or you won't be living here," said Peters. "That happens all the time and you have that constant worry."
Peters says she has survived six suicide attempts and argues conversion therapy kills. Richardson filed a similar bill last year, aiming to ban sexual orientation therapy. It didn't gain much traction, but this time around he believes the bill has a strong chance of becoming law.
"It's a bad bill it should be killed in the committee, it shouldn't even see the light of day," said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of the Orlando-based Liberty Counsel.
He firmly believes parents know what's best for their children and should be able to subject them to therapies they deem necessary.
Under the Conversion Bill, therapists or other medical professionals who perform the therapy on children under the age of 18 would face disciplinary action from the state.
"This would be an outrageous intrusion by the state," said Staver. "Frankly it would harm children, it would harm parents and it would harm counselors."
Staver says the Liberty Counsel will quickly file suit against the state of Florida if the bill passes.