Trump judges overturn LGBTQ ‘conversion therapy’ bans

Top line

A Federal Court of Appeal hit Local Friday ordinances prohibiting licensed therapists from engaging in “conversion therapy” practices aimed at changing a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity – despite a broad consensus among experts that that such therapy is harmful – arguing that the prohibition of the controversial practice is a violation of therapists’ policy. First Amendment Rights.


The court ruling involved orders in Palm Beach County and Boca Raton, Fla. Governing sexual orientation change efforts, which expressly prohibit licensed counselors from “treating minors with” any advice, practice or treatment performed. for the purpose of changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender. identity ” because of the health risk that such treatment poses.

A federal district court upheld the bans after several therapists sued Palm Beach and Boca Raton over the orders, but the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal overturned the ruling on Friday, ruling that Florida’s local bans “violate the law. First Amendment because they are content-based regulations. speech that cannot survive scrutiny.

Justices Britt C. Grant and Barbara Lagoa, both of whom were appointed by President Donald Trump, wrote that while they “understand and appreciate that therapy is very controversial … the First Amendment does not ‘exception for controversial speeches’.

Judges cast their skepticism on evidence provided by defendants showing conversion therapy is harmful enough to warrant the speech restrictions, saying there hasn’t been enough research on the matter to show evidence realities of the danger it poses, and saying that the court “cannot rely on” professional organizations that oppose the practice because organizations can “turn around” on their views, as did the American Psychiatric Association when it overturned its opposition to homosexuality.

In her dissent, Judge Beverly C. Martin rejected this argument and noted that the conduct of the research requested by the majority “ignores the harm that such studies would have on children” and that it “is” not ” ethically permissible “to conduct” this might more conclusively prove that the practice is harmful.

The Florida prescriptions were “backed by a mountain of rigorous evidence,” Martin argued, noting that organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association’s Council of Representatives, the The American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American School Counselor Association, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and the World Health Organization have all found that the SOCE “poses[s] real risk of harm to children.

Crucial quote

“If there is one fundamental principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government cannot ban the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or distasteful,” Grant noted in his majority ruling, citing an earlier court ruling. “The contested ordinances violate this principle. “

Chief critic

“Conversion therapy is a fraud. No matter how hard you try, you can’t change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This so-called therapy has never been shown to produce negative mental health outcomes and increase the risk of suicide, ”said Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project, in a statement regarding the decision. “This misguided decision sends a terrible message to LGBTQ youth in Florida, who want nothing more than to be respected for who they are.”

Key context

Conversion therapy practices have been shown to increase the risk of psychological problems, including “depression, suicidality, anxiety, social isolation and decreased capacity for intimacy, ”according to Cornell University Analysis studies on the practice, and the university concluded through its analysis that “there is no credible evidence that sexual orientation can be changed by therapeutic intervention.” In addition to the local Florida bans at issue in Friday’s rulings, 20 states and dozens of localities have enacted their own conversion therapy bans, according to to the movement advancement project. The policies have already been the subject of conflicting court rulings: bans on therapeutic practice were previously upheld by federal courts of appeal in California and New Jersey, for example, while the ban in Tampa, Florida was hit by a federal court in 2019.

What to watch out for

Conflicting court rulings on conversion therapy bans increase the likelihood of the matter going to the United States Supreme Court, which now has a conservative 6-3 tilt with the recent confirmation by Judge Amy Coney Barrett. The high court before decreases to address the issue in 2017, leaving California law banning the practice in place.

Further reading

Christian group sues PBC, Boca over conversion therapy ban (Palm Beach Post)

Conversion therapy associated with severe psychological distress in transgender people, study finds (Washington Post)

What does academic research say about whether conversion therapy can change sexual orientation without harm? (Cornell University)

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