Palm Beach County in Florida has lost an appeal and will now have to compensate counselors it had barred from helping young people with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender confusion.
The county’s unconstitutional ordinance prevented counselors from providing minor clients with the help they were seeking.
According to the eight-page judgment, Palm Beach County will pay Dr. Robert Otto, LMFT, and Dr. Julie Hamilton, LMFT. The Christian religious rights law firm Liberty Counsel represented the counselors, and will also be entitled to attorney’s fees and costs.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit previously struck down City Ordinance 5407 in Otto, et al v. City of Boca Raton, FL et al, and found that this law and the ban in Palm Beach County, both violated the First Amendment right to free speech.
“Let this be a warning to any government that has not repealed similar counseling bans,” Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Matt Staver said in a statement. “These speech restrictive laws violate the First Amendment. This case is the beginning of the end of similar unconstitutional counseling bans around the country.”
“These victories set a precedent that minors who are struggling with gender confusion can get the help they need from counselors who are free from political censorship,” Staver added.
Otto, Hamilton, and their minor clients challenged the constitutionality of the ordinances enacted by the City of Boca Raton and Palm Beach County which banned minors from seeking voluntary counseling from licensed professionals. These licensed therapists provide life-saving counseling to minors who sincerely desire to conform their attractions, behaviors, and gender identities to their sincerely held religious beliefs.
According to Liberty Counsel, under the ordinances that were struck down, a counselor could encourage a client to take life-altering hormone drugs or even undergo invasive surgery to remove healthy body parts, but could not help a client who seeks to overcome unwanted same-sex attractions, behavior, or confusion.
The Eleventh Circuit Court also recently struck down a Tampa, Florida ordinance that outlawed licensed counselors from providing voluntary talk therapy to minors seeking to reduce or eliminate their sexual confusion. Like the Palm Beach and Boca Raton ordinances, the Tampa measure was also deemed unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
In Vazzo v. City of Tampa, Liberty Counsel represented marriage and family therapist Robert Vazzo and his minor clients, as well as the Christian ministry, New Hearts Outreach Tampa Bay.