Nadine Smith
Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida

Equality Florida has petitioned a federal court to intervene in a case challenging Tampa’s ordinance restricting gay conversion therapy. Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian rights are assisting Equality Florida. Equality Florida has also filed a motion to dismiss.

Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, issued a statement:

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. 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.

The case is known as Vazzo v. City of Tampa, Florida. The nominal plaintiffs are two reparative therapy crackpots: Robert L. Vazzo and David H. Pickup. The real plaintiff is the rabid anti-LGBT hate group, Liberty Counsel under the direction of Mat Staver.

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.

If Equality Florida’s motion to intervene is approved by the Court (and it should be) then the civil rights group will be a co-defendant in the case alongside the City of Tampa.

I do not see how we even get there. Vazzo is in Las Vegas and Pickup is in California. I cannot figure out how they could possibly have standing to challenge the ordinance. Vazzo is licensed in Florida but he has to demonstrate a real harm and it has to be in Tampa. The address on the license (originally issued in 2010) is in Las Vegas.

I would like to understand Liberty Counsel’s grounds for challenging the Tampa ordinance. However, they have filed a 199 page complaint. That far exceeds my threshold for gibberish.

Conversion therapy is pseudoscience. It is thoroughly discredited and has been rejected by every mainstream medical and counseling professional organization. Practitioners have never been able to prove that it is safe or effective. It is based on the false premise that being gay or trans is a character flaw. It attempts to fix something that isn’t broken. Moreover, this snake oil nonsense encourages parents not to accept their children as they are. It also presupposes that parents are to blame for their children’s sexuality.

This is extremely unhealthy for all concerned. It offers guilt for parents and shame for children. There is no alchemy to turn gay kids straight. I am particularly concerned with attempts to address gender dysphoria. Those children are particularly vulnerable. Attempting to do something that has been rejected by the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association will only increase the potential for self-harm.

Meanwhile, Liberty Counsel is imposing unreasonable and unnecessary court costs on taxpayers while they raise funds off of a case that should be dismissed.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.