BOCA RATON, Fla. — A federal court this week said "conversion therapy" is allowed to continue in Palm Beach County and Boca Raton.
The ruling reaffirms a 2-year-old decision by the Atlanta-based court to keep those two local governments from banning the practice.
The therapy is aimed at those in the LGBTQ+ community, talking them through changing their sexual orientation.
"I knew at age 9 that something wasn't right with me as I was discovering myself, but I never told parents," said a youth who wanted to remain anonymous for safety reasons.
They said they were outed to their parents at a young age and forced into conversion therapy by threats of being kicked out of their house.
"It completely changed my life, it altered the way that I functioned in my daily life with shame, it altered the way that I functioned as an individual," said the youth.
Wednesday, a federal appeals court ruled to continue blocking a ban that prohibited therapists from performing conversion therapy, raising concerns for therapists like Catherine Doe with Compass.
"Therapy should be something that's supporting someone's growth, supporting someone's well-being, supporting someone's feeling, and when it has the impact of denying someone, it has the opposite effect," said Doe.
Doe said 25 families per week are served at the youth program at Compass and fears conversion therapy may increase suicide rates among youth that are struggling with their sexual identity.
"We need a clear message that within our community as a whole within our county that LGBTQ+ people will be honored and respected and this goes in the face of that, it's the opposite message," said Doe.
Eleventh Circuit Court Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum noted:
As of September 2020, about 1,994,000 minors between the ages of 13 and 17 in the United States were estimated to be LGBTQ, and 12% of LGBTQ youth in this age range have reported being subjected to SOCE (Sexual Orientation. Change Efforts)
"The idea that this will increase suicide attempts or will lead to increased suicidal ideations is simply not supportable," said Roger Gannam, with Liberty Council, who served as an attorney for local therapists who filed the appeal to continue with conversion therapy.
They said they were seeing an increased need from clients asking for the therapy.
"They just don't want to turn away a client who says 'I'm really having trouble reconciling my religious beliefs with what I'm feeling, can you help me walk through that', and that's what they do," said Gannam.
Gannam said a licensed counselor can't provide counseling unless there's also consent from a minor.
"No matter what and no matter the outcome just please remember that you're not alone and that you are worthy of love," said the youth.
Gannam said the only thing that could change the decision on the ban is if the city or county takes the matter to U.S supreme court.