The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that the city of Boca Raton and Palm Beach County Florida‘s ban on counseling for minors with gender dysphoria and other sexual confusions violated the First Amendment.
A three-judge panel of the court ruled 2-1 against the laws.
“We hold that the challenged ordinances violate the First Amendment because they are content-based regulations of speech that cannot survive strict scrutiny,” Judge Britt Grant wrote in the majority opinion.
The local governments said that their restrictions targeted the conduct, not the speech, of counselors.
The court “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.'”
The case involved two Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, Dr. Robert Otto and Dr. Julie Hamilton, who argued that they were unconstitutionally deprived of the right to speak with their underage patients about unwanted sexual conditions, including same-sex attraction, gender dysphoria, and abnormal sexual behaviors.
Their clients include Christian children who want to follow Biblical laws regarding sexuality.
Counseling laws created unconstitutional disparities for freedom of speech and solidified disturbing trends in the nation’s treatment of childhood sexual abnormalities.
Before the court invalidated the laws, counselors could have lawfully advised children to have their genitals surgically removed or to ingest toxic hormones, but they could not have offered them advise for combatting unwanted sexual attractions, behaviors, or desires.
“This is a huge victory for counselors and their clients to choose the counsel of their choice free of political censorship from government ideologues,” Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said. “This case is the beginning of the end of similar unconstitutional counseling bans around the country.”