Counseling Ban Goes to Court of Appeals

Feb 14, 2019

WEST PALM BEACH, FL – Late yesterday, within 59 minutes of a judge’s ruling on a counseling ban, Liberty Counsel filed a notice of appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on behalf of Dr. Robert Otto, LMFT and Dr. Julie Hamilton, LMFT. These counselors provide life-saving counsel to minors who desperately desire to conform their attractions, behaviors, and gender confusion to their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Late yesterday, District Court Judge Robin Rosenberg issued a ruling denying the preliminary injunction against the counseling bans passed by the City of Boca Raton and Palm Beach County, Florida. Incredibly, the court stated that “the Court declines to announce a standard of review for this case. Based on Wollschlaeger, the ordinances likely affect protected speech, and are therefore subject to a higher level of review than rational basis review. The ordinances also seem to regulate on the basis of their content, which would compel strict scrutiny under Reed.” The Wollschlaeger case is a controlling Court of Appeals decision and the Reed case is a controlling U.S. Supreme Court case. 

The courts must decide the First Amendment challenge rather than avoid controlling precedent. There are many other short comings of this opinion and thus the reason for the immediate appeal.

Liberty Counsel’s lawsuit urged the court to enter a preliminary injunction to suspend City Ordinance 5407 and County Ordinance 2017-046 which prohibit minors from receiving voluntary counseling from licensed professionals to reduce or eliminate unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or gender confusion in Boca Raton and Palm Beach County. Controlling precedent, especially a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the NIFLA case involving crisis pregnancy centers, should require that such counseling bans be stricken as violations of the First Amendment.

“These ordinances are unconstitutional speech restrictions that violate the First Amendment,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “We have a number of similar challenges in federal courts. It is just a matter of time to get one of them to the Supreme Court to end these horrible speech restrictions,” said Staver.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics. Liberty Counsel provides broadcast quality TV interviews via Hi-Def Skype and LTN at no cost.