A federal judge in Maryland has defied U.S. Supreme Court precedent and dismissed a lawsuit over the state’s ban on counseling against same-sex inclinations.
Christopher Doyle, a licensed professional counselor, sued the state because of its ban on minors receiving voluntary counseling from licensed professionals to reduce or eliminate unwanted same-sex attractions.
Liberty Counsel said it would appeal the ruling immediately to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
States have begun adopting such speech bans. One claimed it was “professional speech” as opposed to ordinary speech and wasn’t protected by the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court, however, crushed that argument in the recent NIFLA case in which it said that there is no subcategory of speech that isn’t protected.
Consequently, the justices ruled the state of California could not require pro-life crisis pregnancy centers to promote nearby abortionists, because that was the state’s message, not theirs.
Such “coerced” speech isn’t allowed, the court said.
In the Doyle case, it was Judge Deborah Chasanow who “ignored binding Supreme Court precedent and issued an opinion” dismissed Doyle’s case, Liberty Counsel said.
SB 1028 was signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan in 2018.
However, Liberty Counsel explained, “Doyle counsels minors who voluntarily seek his help and are struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, and identity. Doyle’s counseling is provided solely through speech, but it is prohibited by Maryland’s counseling ban because the state disapproves Doyle’s viewpoint.”
The judge “ignored” the Supreme Court’s decision in National Institute for Family and Life Advocates, “which rejected the notion that states can single out the speech of licensed professionals for lesser protection under the First Amendment,” Liberty Counsel said.
The judge chose to use as precedents two cases, Pickup v. Brown and King v. Governor of New Jersey, both of which specifically were called out by the Supreme Court as mistakes.
“In NIFLA, the Supreme Court upheld the First Amendment’s prohibition against censorship of professionals speech that the government doesn’t like, but the district court ignored that precedent and gave Maryland a pass on its unconstitutional therapy ban,” said Roger Gannam, Liberty Counsel’s assistant vice president of legal affairs and one of the lead litigators in Liberty Counsel’s challenges of counseling bans around the country. “The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals should reverse the district court and hold that Doyle’s counseling speech is entitled to full First Amendment protection.”
The judge said the state can prohibit “speech uttered in the process of conducting conversion therapy.”
That’s a derogatory name applied to the counseling by opponents.
The state claims that such speech bans protect children.
And the judge said that speech is “conduct,” the same argument California used in losing its case at the Supreme Court.
In fact, News York City officials are trying to repeal their ban on counseling people with unwanted same-sex attractions because they fear a court ruling would impact numerous similar bans across the nation.
Liberty Counsel, which filed the lawsuit, noted New York City’s ban is unprecedented in that it applies to adults who are voluntarily seeking counsel as well as minors.
The state of New York has a “conversion counseling” ban that applies to minors only, to which New York City will remain bound even if the city’s broader counseling ban is repealed.
Liberty Counsel also is confronting the constitutionality of similar laws in Florida, Maryland and California.
The legal group has requested a summary judgment that would block Tampa’s counseling ban, which it says “violates the First Amendment by prohibiting licensed counselors from providing talk therapy to minors seeking help to reduce or eliminate their unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity.”
In the Tampa case, Liberty Counsel’s recent filing states: “The ordinance is a textbook example of viewpoint discrimination. On its face, the ordinance purports to allow licensed therapists to discuss the subject of sexual orientation, but explicitly prohibits a particular viewpoint on that subject, namely that unwanted same-sex attraction can be reduced or eliminated to the benefit of the client, if the client so desires.
“The ordinance defines ‘conversion therapy’ in such a way that it is clear that the city is targeting only one viewpoint, i.e., SOCE that seeks to ‘eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender or sex.'”
WND reported a magistrate judge ruled in January that Tampa’s ban on counseling against same-sex attractions mostly likely violates the First Amendment.