A US federal magistrate judge has said that a ban on gay cure therapy should be blocked because it violates constitutional free speech protections.
Evangelical law firm Liberty Counsel had brought a legal challenge against a 2017 ordinance passed in Tampa, Florida, that sought to outlaw conversion therapy on minors.
Similar laws banning gay cure therapy have been passed in 15 US states and dozens of cities across the country, but the legislative push faces opposition from extreme religious groups and conservative lawmakers.
In a January 30 opinion, magistrate judge Amanda Arnold Sansone sided with the evangelical group’s bid to seek an injunction to block the ordinance.
In her recommendation, Sansone argued that Liberty Counsel is “likely to succeed on the merits” of its challenged, which is based on the claim that banning gay cure therapy represents “unconstitutional prior restraint on the plaintiffs’ free speech.”
Equality Case Files explains that the recommendation is subject to approval from Judge William F. Jung, the district court judge who will hear the case on March 5.
However, ThinkProgress notes that several other challenges against conversion therapy bans across the US are still pending—and a victory for Liberty Counsel could spell wider trouble on the issue.
Anti-LGBT evangelicals claim First Amendment protects gay cure therapy
Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, celebrated the opinion.
He said in a release: “The city of Tampa has no authority to prohibit counselors from providing counsel which their clients seek. Our counseling clients engage in ‘talk therapy,’ which is the common practice of counselors.
“This well-reasoned opinion underscores the serious First Amendment violations of laws that dictate what a counselor and client may discuss in the privacy of their counseling session.
“The government has no business eavesdropping inside the counseling session between a counselor and client.”
Gay ‘cure’ therapy is still legal in more than 30 US states despite being condemned by nearly every major medical, therapeutic and psychological body.
Experts overwhelmingly agree that attempts to cure sexuality or gender identity are futile, misguided, and often extremely harmful, and governments across the world are coming under increasing pressure to crack down.
Attempts to force teens to repress their true selves have been linked to depression, self-harm and even suicide.
Liberty Counsel is listed anti-LGBT hate group
Liberty Counsel is best known for representing embattled Kentucky clerk Kim Davis when she refused to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples after a US Supreme Court decision to legalise gay marriage.
Liberty Counsel is classified as a hate group by extremism watchdog the Southern Poverty Law Center due to its extreme views and history of spreading anti-LGBT propaganda.
Mat Staver previously made a false claim that first responders at the 2016 Pulse gay club attack had to “get tested for AIDS-related conditions” because of the blood of gay victims.
Liberty Counsel has previously admitted helping state Republican lawmakers to draft anti-LGBT legislation, as well as attempting to push anti-LGBT laws around the world.