Thousands sign petition asking Orange County to ban conversion therapy

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Thousands of people signed a petition asking Orange County to ban the discredited practice of "conversion therapy."

The practice aims to change someone's sexual orientation through psychological or spiritual intervention.

The ban is in place across 18 states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.

There have been annual attempts to ban it in Florida, but they have never made it out of the first committee.

However, it has been banned in three counties and six cities in Florida.

Local attorneys are suing some of those areas because they believe the bans are unlawful.

People who have been through conversion therapy have asked Orange County leaders to set a standard and an example.

"It is not enough for us to say that everything's different after Pulse," said Brandon Wolfe, a Pulse nightclub shooting survivor.

"It's against the code of ethics. It violates the requirements for a therapist to do no harm," said Stephanie Preston-Hughes, a mental health counselor.

"I had a world of people who were telling me that I needed to change and that I needed to pray more and that through just reading the Bible I would be able to overcome that part of my sexuality," said Jordan Hunter.

Hunter said he wanted to be a pastor but when he was rejected because of his sexuality, he was sent to Orlando for conversion therapy.

"To live with a complete stranger who had supposedly overcome homosexuality, and he was going to walk me through the process," Hunter said.

Roger Gannam, with the Liberty Counsel said mental health counselors he represents believe changing sexuality is possible.

The Liberty Counsel is suing the city of Tampa and other places with bans on conversion therapy because they said it violates freedom of speech and targets Christian therapists who are helping someone change.

"If the client says I would like to work on reducing or eliminating same-sex attraction, the clients we represent, the counselors we represent would say, 'Alright we're open to that goal.' But they'll tell them it can be difficult," Gannam said.

Mayor Jerry Deming said he and commissioners may support the people who are asking for a ban but they are still gathering information about whether or not the county level is the appropriate place for it. He also told them their voices were heard.

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