A federal appeals court on Friday
struck down two local ordinances that prohibited therapies that
attempt to alter the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBT
Such therapies go by names such as
“conversion therapy,” “reparative therapy,” “sexual
orientation change efforts” or “ex-gay therapy.”
A three-judge panel on the U.S.
Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta found that bans in the
city of Boca Raton and Palm Beach County, Florida violate the First
Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The 2-1 decision was written by U.S.
Circuit Judge Britt Grant. Joining Grant in the majority was U.S.
Circuit Judge Barbara Lagoa. Both judges were appointed to the bench
by President Donald Trump.
“We understand and appreciate that
the therapy is highly controversial,” Grant wrote. “But the First
Amendment has no carveout for controversial speech. We hold that the
challenged ordinances violate the First Amendment because they are
content-based regulations of speech that cannot survive strict
Major medical and psychological
institutions have rejected conversion therapy as ineffectual and
possibly harmful to youth.
The bans had been held up by a lower
In her dissenting opinion, U.S. Circuit
Judge Beverly Martin, who was appointed by former President Barack
Obama, said that she believes “the localities' narrow regulation of
a harmful medical practice affecting vulnerable minors falls within
the narrow band of permissibility [on restricting speech].”
The ruling impacts Alabama, Georgia and
Florida, which fall under the court's jurisdiction. A large number of
cities and municipalities in Florida have approved similar bans.
In a statement, LGBT legal group Lambda
Legal called the ruling “incredibly dangerous.”
“So-called ‘conversion therapy’
is nothing less than child abuse,” Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jennings
said. “It poses documented and proven critical health risks,
including depression, shame, decreased self-esteem, social
withdrawal, substance abuse, self-harm and suicide. Youth are often
subjected to these practices at the insistence of parents who don’t
know or don’t believe that the efforts are harmful and doomed to
fail: when these efforts predictably fail to produce the expected
result, many LGBTQ children are kicked out of their homes.”
“The damage done by this misguided
opinion is incalculable and puts young people in danger,” he added.
The Supreme Court in 2014 and again in
2017 refused to hear challenges to California's ban.