Gainesville is now the first city in North Florida to ban conversion therapy for minors.

In a unanimous vote on Thursday, the City Commission passed an ordinance banning licensed professionals from practicing conversion therapy on minors. Conversion therapy is the practice of employing counseling efforts with the goal of changing someone’s sexual orientation.

Mayor Lauren Poe choked up when he shared a story about a recent student of his at Santa Fe College who came out to her family and said they considered using conversion therapy to change her sexual orientation.

“For all of the pressures and for all of the difficulties that exist for every 18-year-old, 17-year-old, this is one that she should not have to deal with,” he said during the meeting.

Donn Smith-Lopez was moved by Poe’s personal tie to the issue. Smith-Lopez represents Gainesville on the Equality Florida Board of Directors and has been a vocal advocate for the conversion therapy ban at City Commission meetings.

“It was a great relief to know that our city leaders are behind protecting our LGBT youth,” he said.

While he celebrates the victory at the city level, he said he’s also working to get a similar ban passed at the county and state level.

“The practice of conversion therapy really is dreadful and detrimental to the mental health state of these kids,” he said. “It’s telling them essentially that who they are isn’t good enough.”

Contact Jessica Giles at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jessica_giles_

Jessica Giles is a junior journalism major and Commission Reporter for The Alligator. Starting as a copyeditor in the Spring 2017, she now covers all city and county affairs. She'll never turn down a cup of coffee or the opportunity to pet a beagle.