“This is a case about what speech the First Amendment allows the government to ban, and under what circumstances,” the majority justices wrote. They were particularly interested in the question from the point of view of speech “content.” They noted that the “First Amendment exists precisely so that speakers with unpopular ideas do not have to lobby the government for permission before they speak.” However, both the City and the County ordinances specifically banned the content of speech, that is, anything that helps the client not to act on same-sex desires or not to seek a sex change. “They also discriminate on the basis of viewpoint. After all, the plaintiffs’ counseling practices are grounded in a particular viewpoint about sex, gender, and sexual ethics,” they continued.
FLORIDA, November 20, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has ruled that a ban on therapy for unwanted sexual attractions violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
In today’s decision, two of three justices, U.S. Circuit Judge Britt Grant and Circuit Judge Barbara Lagoa, agreed with the plaintiffs, therapists Robert W. Otto and Julie H. Hamilton, that a prohibition on therapy aimed at “reducing a minor’s sexual or romantic attraction (at least to others of the same gender or sex), or changing a minor’s gender identity or expression” violates their “constitutional right to speak freely with clients.”
“We understand and appreciate that the therapy is highly controversial,” wrote Circuit Judge Grant. “But the 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.”
The decision recalls that in 2017 Palm Beach County, Florida, and the City of Boca Raton, Florida “joined a growing list” of states and towns that prohibit therapies the court called “sexual orientation change efforts.” It recognized that plaintiffs reject the term “conversion therapy,” “which they associate with shock treatments, involuntary camps, and other chimerical or long-abandoned practices.”
The City of Boca Raton forbid any professional counsellor, save clergy, from treating minors with “any counseling, practice or treatment performed with the goal of changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including, but not limited to, efforts to change behaviors, gender identity, or gender expression, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender or sex.”
Palm Beach County banned “the practice of seeking to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including but not limited to efforts to change behaviors, gender identity, or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender or sex.”
However, as the Court underscored, both ordinances allowed counsellors to influence minors to change their biological sex.