Court Strikes Down “Conversion Therapy” Ban

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta

“Last week, a panel on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals effectively struck down two Florida bans on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) that sought to ban counselors from putting minors through ‘conversion therapy.’ The court ruled that the laws violated the First Amendment by restricting free speech. While LGBT activists have rightly condemned the historic abuses of ‘conversion therapy’ in the past, modern SOCE therapists use patient-directed talk therapy, not ‘shock therapy.’ When the City of Boca Raton and the County of Palm Beach banned SOCE counseling, licensed marriage and family therapists Robert Otto and Julie Hamilton sued, seeking an injunction to prevent the city and county from enacting their bans. The therapists argue that ‘their clients typically have sincerely held religious beliefs conflicting with homosexuality, and voluntarily seek SOCE counseling in order to live in congruence with their faith and to conform their identity, concept of self, attractions, and behaviors to their sincerely held religious beliefs.’ As Judge Grant wrote, ‘The ordinances thus codify a particular viewpoint–sexual orientation is immutable, but gender is not— and prohibit the therapists from advancing any other perspective when counseling clients.’ This involves an unconstitutional restriction of free speech. ‘Whether therapy is prohibited depends only on the content of the words used in that therapy, and the ban on that content is because the government disagrees with it. And whether the government’s disagreement is for good reasons, great reasons, or terrible reasons has nothing at all to do with it. All that matters is that a therapist’s speech to a minor client is legal or illegal under the ordinances based solely on its content,’ Judge Grant wrote. Lawsuits against ‘conversion therapy’ bans received a new lease on life thanks to NIFLA v. Becerra. In that decision, Justice Clarence Thomas explicitly struck down California’s law forcing crisis pregnancy centers to advertise abortion under the argument that states can regulate ‘professional speech.’ In striking down California’s law, Thomas referenced a case (King v. Governor of New Jersey) involving bans on sexual orientation change efforts. Otto v. Boca Raton represents a landmark case for therapy freedom.”

“Court Strikes Down,” PJMedia, Nov. 25, 2020