A divided federal appeals court declared unconstitutional two south Florida laws that banned therapists from offering conversion therapy to children to "fix" their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In a 2-1 decision, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with two therapists who said the laws in the city of Boca Raton and Palm Beach County violated their free speech rights, according to ‘NBC News’.
Circuit Judge Britt Grant said that while enjoining the laws “allows speech that many find concerning — even dangerous,” the First Amendment “does not allow communities to determine how their neighbours may be counselled about matters of sexual orientation or gender.”
The therapists, Robert Otto and Julie Hamilton, said their clients typically had “sincerely held religious beliefs conflicting with homosexuality,” and sought counselling to conform their identities and behaviours with those beliefs.
Republican President Donald Trump appointed both judges in the court's majority.
Circuit Judge Barbara Martin, appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama, dissented, citing a compelling interest in protecting children from a “harmful therapeutic practice.”
In separate statements, Boca Raton’s lawyer Jamie Cole and Palm Beach County’s lawyer Helene Hvizd called the dissent “well-reasoned,” and said both were weighing their legal options.
Mat Staver, a lawyer for the therapists, called the decision the first of its kind by a federal appeals court, and “a huge victory” enabling people to choose to counsel "free of government censorship".
To date, there is no evidence that conversion therapy works successfully, or without causing extreme trauma to the recipient.
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