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Conversion therapy ban in Tampa angers Los Angeles therapists who sue city

Two Los Angeles-based, licensed therapists  — who support conversion therapy and made a failed attempt to overturn California’s ban on it — have sued the city of Tampa, which has outlawed the dangerous and discredited practice for minors. Photo: iStock/seb_ra

Two Los Angeles-based, licensed therapists  — who support conversion therapy and made a failed attempt to overturn California’s ban on it — have sued the city of Tampa, which has outlawed the dangerous and discredited practice for minors.

‘PRAY THE GAY AWAY’

Conversion therapy — which has been called “Pray the Gay Away,” lampooned on “South Park” and outlawed by several states — is a disproved therapy method intended to change the sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression of LGBT people. It is grounded in the belief that being LGBTQ is abnormal and wrong — which we all know is bullshit.

ALSO READ: Conversion therapy would harm 77,000 youth

 

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Butters Stotch was sent to a “Pray the Gay Away” camp on a 2007 episode of “South Park.” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) wants to regulate the “troubled teen” industry with health and safety standards that would ban “conversion therapy.” Photo: Comedy Central.

CONVERSION THERAPY ADVOCATES

Robert Vazzo and David Pickup, the plaintiffs, have cited an alleged First Amendment violation in their lawsuit, which was filed in December. Though Vazzo is a licensed therapist in Florida, his offices are located in Las Vegas and Culver City. Pickup, who is not licensed in Florida, has offices in Dallas and the Los Angeles area.

ALSO READ: The dangers of conversion therapy

 

HISTORY OF LOSING

The Orlando-based Liberty Counsel, which the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as an anti-LGBTQ hate group and filed the lawsuit on behalf of Vazzo and Pickup, has a track record of losing when it has challenged conversion therapy bans across the country.

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In 2012, Liberty Counsel challenged California’s ban, but it was upheld by a federal appeals court, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case. Vazzo and Pickup also are losers — They were plaintiffs in the California challenge.

ALSO READ: Federal bill would ban conversion therapy

Liberty Counsel was handed another loss when it challenged New Jersey’s conversion therapy ban, which the U.S. Supreme Court has let stand on two occasions.

HELPING TAMPA

Last month, Equality Florida, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a motion requesting inclusion as defendants alongside Tampa, which would allow the social justice groups to help the city defend their ban in court.

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EQUALITY FLORIDA

Liberty Counsel filed a motion opposing their request, and Equality Florida responded that they have a direct and unique interest in the case because its mission includes efforts to enact laws that protect LGBTQ youth from harmful and discriminatory treatment.

The judge could make a ruling on the motion within 60 days.

Liberty Counsel is known for filing litigation opposing the expansion of LGBTQ equality  – from defending anti-LGBTQ discrimination in businesses to fighting marriage equality.

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About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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