Palm Beach County and Boca Raton Petition for Conversion Therapy Re-Hearing

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday December 15, 2020

Palm Beach County and Boca Raton Petition for Conversion Therapy Re-Hearing
  (Source:EDGE Media Library)

Palm Beach County and Boca Raton are challenging a court panel decision in November that reversed a ban on conversion therapy, the Palm Beach Post reports.

In 2018, therapists Robert Otto and Julie Hamilton — both of whom reportedly practice a form of religious-based conversion called "talk-therapy" — sued the city and county saying a ban on conversion therapy violated their first amendment rights. The ruling by a three-judge panel concluded that a ban "violates the free speech rights of therapists who offer minors counseling services they say help them align their attractions, behaviors and gender identities to their religious beliefs," as The Post reports.

Palm Beach County and Boca Raton say the judges in the majority, Britt Grant and Barbara Lagoa — both appointed by President Donald Trump — "overlooked or misapprehended certain points of law or fact," and that the "decision, possibly unintentionally, included language suggesting it constituted a final decision" on lifting conversion therapy bans on therapists despite the overwhelming evidence of harm the practice inflicts on LGBTQ youth.

Otto and Hamilton are represented by Orlando-based Liberty Counsel, an organization classified as an LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver has defended the rights of therapist to engage in the problematic and psychologically harmful practice of conversion therapy, arguing that "counselors and their clients have freedom in the counseling room" regardless of "political censorship and agendas from government ideologues."

Fifteen cities in Florida have signed on to the amicus brief, due Friday, supporting the efforts of Boca Raton and Palm Beach County — including West Palm Beach, Delray Beach, Miami Beach, and more. The petition also includes 33 organizations who have a stake in its outcome — if the ruling remains, conversion therapy bans statewide could be easily struck down. Randy Hoch, founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, said "It shows that this is happening to kids everywhere and elected officials are concerned about it... This was such an outlier decision. It just made no sense," Hoch said. "We couldn't just let this sit."

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.

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