Court of Appeals Strikes Down FL Ban on Counseling for Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction

A panel of judges with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the enforcement of local ordinances in Florida that banned counselors from providing therapy to minors who are seeking to change their sexual orientation. 

Liberty Counsel announced on Friday that Dr. Robert Otto and Dr. Julie Hamilton argued that the laws enacted by the City of Boca Raton and Palm Beach County violate the constitutional right to free speech. 

These therapists strive to provide critical counseling to minors who wish to overcome their same-sex attractions and behaviors.

“We hold that the challenged ordinances violate the First Amendment because they are content-based regulations of speech that cannot survive strict scrutiny,” Judge Grant wrote in the 2-1 decision.

Under the laws that were overturned, a counselor could advise a client to take hormone drugs or have life-changing surgery, but could not assist a client who sought to suppress unwanted desires or confusion associated with same-sex.

The court added that “The First Amendment does not protect the right to speak about banned speech; it protects speech itself, no matter how disagreeable that speech might be to the government. And what good would it do for a therapist whose client sought sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) therapy to tell the client that she thought the therapy could be helpful, but could not offer it? It only matters that some words about sexuality and gender are allowed, and others are not… But speech does not need to be popular in order to be allowed. The First Amendment exists precisely so that speakers with unpopular ideas do not have to lobby the government for permission before they speak,” wrote Judge Grant.  

And, the ruling eliminates the potential for counselors to be fined for providing the therapy their clients seek. The decision highlights the importance of parents allowing their child the freedom to return to a gender identity that matches the original sex at birth.

“This is a huge victory for counselors and their clients to choose the counsel of their choice free of political censorship from government ideologues,” said Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver. “This case is the beginning of the end of similar unconstitutional counseling bans around the country.”   

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