Liberty Counsel files appeal for conversion therapy bans in Boca Raton and Palm Beach county

By : Lauren Lee
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Liberty Counsel, an Orlando-based Christian advocacy group, filed an appeal in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that conversion therapy bans in Boca Raton and Palm beach County are unconstitutional.

The ban and subsequent appeal is part of an ongoing national debate about conversion therapy, which aims to convert LGBTQ youth’s gender identity or sexual orientation and lessen their attraction to the same sex.

The case is filed on behalf of counselors Robert Otto, of Boca Raton, and Julie Hamilton, of Palm Beach Gardens, both licensed marriage and family therapists.

According to Roger Gannam, Liberty Counsel’s assistant vice president for legal affairs, in an interview with the Sun Sentinel, these types of bans challenge the free speech rights of the therapists as well as the right of choice of families.

“The counselors don’t go in with a predetermined outcome,” said Gannam. The laws prevent “the ability of the counselors to have an open and frank discussion.”

The Human Rights Council, an LGBTQ advocacy group in Palm Beach county, has been working to enact conversion therapy bans in as many cities as possible. Both Boca Raton and Palm Beach have bans as well as nearly two dozen other cities, counties and municipalities in the state of Florida.

“We were getting complaints from kids being subjected to this by their parents,” said Rand Hoch, the Human Rights Council’s president, to the Sun Sentinel. “The therapists tell the kids they won’t have friends or their family will disown them. Even though it’s just talk therapy, it could lead to all kinds of acting out and suicide.”

Studies and reports such as the Journal of Homosexuality published in November found that LGBTQ individuals whose parents sent them to conversion therapy and counseling as teenagers have a higher rate of attempting suicide.

The Liberty Counsel insists that there are LGBTQ youth who need and want the therapy.

“These licensed therapists provide life-saving counseling to minors who desperately desire to conform,” the counsel reports.

In February, federal Judge Robin Rosenberg denied a preliminary injunction sought by Liberty Counsel that would have blocked the bans from going into effect.

Rosenberg consulted decisions made by federal appeals courts in California and New Jersey that upheld the conversion therapy bans and stated that the municipalities cited “extensive credible evidence of the damage that conversion therapy inflicts.”

(Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

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