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'Ex-Gay' Therapy Ban Halted as Right Wing Sues to Reinstate Practice

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The city of Tampa wants to stop use of the dangerous practice on minors, but the Liberty Counsel is suing to keep it legal.

A Florida judge says the city of Tampa can't enforce a ban on so-called conversion therapy before a lawsuit challenging the law is resolved.

Federal Magistrate Judge Amanda Arnold Sansone on Thursday allowed a lawsuit to go forward that seeks to undo Tampa's ban on the discredited practice, which attempts to turn LGBTQ people heterosexual or cisgender.

Liberty Counsel, a tax-exempt anti-LGBTQ organization that funds lawsuits "related to evangelical Christian values," backed litigation against Tampa, which in 2017 passed a ban on conversion therapy for minors.

Sansone said the case may proceed on limited grounds for consideration by a federal district court judge. No timeline for the case has been set.

Equality Florida, the state's largest pro-LGBTQ advocacy group, cautioned that the practice remained a danger to youth.

"The fact remains that LGBTQ minors are at risk of fraudulent and dangerous so-called 'conversion therapy,'" Jon Harris Mauer, Equality Florida's public policy director, said in a statement.

"This lawsuit is being driven by Liberty Counsel, the same far-right extremists who recently attacked a bipartisan, anti-lynching bill that unanimously passed in the U.S. Senate just because it includes LGBTQ people," Mauer said. "Equality Florida will not be deterred from protecting LGBTQ youth, and we applaud the City of Tampa's leadership for taking a stand to do the same."

Jose Vega, a Florida citizen who underwent conversion therapy for six years, also stressed a need to end the practice.

"As a conversion therapy survivor, I know just how critical it is to protect minors from this dangerous practice," Vega said in a statement. "Conversion therapy is life-altering. It almost shattered my life. We cannot allow anti-LGBTQ forces to roll back the progress we have made in protecting young people from the horrors of conversion therapy."

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