The Washington Examiner reports that a federal court has just struck down an attempt to place a ban on gay conversion therapy.
This kind of therapy goes by various names, including “reparative” or “ex-gay therapy.”
Put simply, a therapist – through counseling – attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation. Such therapy could also be used to try to change a person’s gender identity.
The effectiveness of this kind of therapy is disputed.
In 2017, the city of Tampa, Florida, passed an ordinance that banned conversion therapy for minors. A therapist who violated the ordinance would be fined $1,000 for a first offense and up to $5,000 for repeated offenses.
The ordinance was subsequently challenged by Liberty Counsel. The group’s website states:
Liberty Counsel is a Christian ministry that proclaims, advocates, supports, advances, and defends the good news that God in the person of Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins and offers forgiveness and eternal life to all who accept him as Lord and Savior.
Liberty Counsel, here, represented Robert Vazzo, a family therapist. And, they argued that the Tampa ordinance violated their First Amendment rights.
The court agrees
On Thursday, in a unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Liberty Counsel.
The three-judge panel consisted of Judge Ed Carnes, an appointee of former President George H.W. Bush; Judge Barbara Lagoa, an appointee of former President Donald Trump; and Judge Robin Rosenbaum, an appointee of former President Barack Obama.
The court, in its decision, relied on an earlier case, from 2020, known as Otto v. City of Boca Raton, where a similar law was struck down.
The panel wrote:
In Otto, we held that city and county ordinances banning sexual orientation change efforts (“SOCE”) were unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The City of Tampa’s SOCE ordinance here is substantively the same as the ordinances at issue in Otto. Accordingly, we are bound by our prior-panel precedent rule to affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the plaintiffs-appellees.
Rosenbaum agreed with the ruling based on precedent. But, Rosenbaum argued that Otto was “wrongly decided.”
“A great victory”
Following the ruling, Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver put out a celebratory statement.
This is a great victory for counselors and their clients. Counselors and clients have the freedom to choose the counsel of their choice and be free of political censorship from government-mandated speech.