Court Strikes Down Florida LGBTQ Counseling Ban

R&I – FS

A federal court struck down laws that prohibit mental health professionals from counseling children and teens who are troubled by unwanted same-sex attractions or gender dysphoria.

Christian nonprofit litigation firm Liberty Counsel represents Drs. Robert Otto and Julie Hamilton, both licensed marriage and family therapists, and their minor clients who challenged ordinances enacted in Boca Raton and Palm Beach County that ban minors from seeking counseling regarding same-sex attractions or gender dysphoria from licensed therapists.

In the 2-1 opinion that reversed a lower court ruling, Judge Britt Grant, a President Trump appointee, wrote, “[T]he First Amendment has no carveout for controversial speech. We hold that the challenged ordinances violate the First Amendment because they are content-based regulations of speech that cannot survive strict scrutiny.”

Grant continued:

Nor can the local governments evade the First Amendment’s ordinary presumption against content-based speech restrictions by saying that the plaintiffs’ speech is actually conduct. We can understand why they would make this claim; if the ordinances restricted only non-expressive conduct, and not speech, then they would not implicate the First Amendment at all. Our Court, though, has already rejected the practice of relabeling controversial speech as conduct. In a case quite similar to this one, we laid down an important marker: “the enterprise of labeling certain verbal or written communications ‘speech’ and others ‘conduct’ is unprincipled and susceptible to manipulation.”

What do you think of the court’s decision in this case?  Should pursuing talk therapy for unwanted sexual attractions or gender incongruity be protected under the 1st Amendment?

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