Judgment Against Boca Raton Counseling Ban

Feb 9, 2023

BOCA RATON, FL – After losing on appeal, the City of Boca Raton will have a judgment entered against it regarding the unconstitutional ordinance that prevented counselors from providing minor clients with help to reduce or eliminate unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or gender confusion. 

According to the judgment, Boca Raton will financially compensate Dr. Robert Otto, LMFT and Dr. Julie Hamilton, LMFT, and Liberty Counsel will also be entitled to attorney’s fees and costs.  

The case against Palm Beach County, whose ordinance was also struck down, is ongoing. 

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals previously struck down City Ordinance 5407 in Otto, et al v. City of Boca Raton, FL et al, and found that this law, and the ban in Palm Beach County, were both content and viewpoint based and violate the First Amendment right to free speech. Liberty Counsel will now pursue litigation against Palm Beach County. 

Liberty Counsel represents Dr. Robert Otto, LMFT and Dr. Julie Hamilton, LMFT and their minor clients who challenged the constitutionality of ordinances enacted by the City of Boca Raton and Palm Beach County which prohibit minors from voluntary counseling from licensed professionals. These licensed therapists provide life-saving counseling to minors who desperately desire to conform their attractions, behaviors, and gender identities to their sincerely held religious beliefs. 

Under the laws that were struck down, a counselor could encourage a client to take life-altering hormone drugs or even undergo invasive surgery to remove healthy body parts, but could not help a client who seeks to overcome unwanted same-sex attractions, behavior, or confusion. 

As a result of the Eleventh Circuit ruling in Otto v. City of Boca Raton, that Court also recently ruled that a Tampa ordinance that prohibited licensed counselors from providing voluntary talk therapy to minors seeking help to reduce or eliminate their unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity, is also unconstitutional under the First Amendment. In Vazzo v. City of Tampa, Liberty Counsel represents marriage and family therapist Robert Vazzo and his minor clients, as well as the Christian ministry, New Hearts Outreach Tampa Bay.

The need for licensed counselors to provide voluntary talk therapy to minors struggling with gender confusion is becoming increasingly greater. There has been an explosion in recent years in the number of children in the United States who identify as a gender different from their biological sex. 

According to Komodo Health Inc., in 2021, about 42,000 children and teens across the United States received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, nearly triple the number in 2017. The analysis found that at least 121,882 children ages 6 to 17 were diagnosed with gender dysphoria from 2017 through 2021. 

In fact, the number of gender clinics treating children in the United States has grown from zero to more than 100 in the past 15 years. At these clinics, doctors are giving testosterone to gender-confused girls as young as eight years old and teen girls as young as 13 are having their breasts removed via mastectomy procedures. Boys the age of 17 can have penises the developmental age of a nine-year-old’s or lose sexual sensation all together due to hormone blockers. 

Puberty blockers and sex hormones do not have U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for children’s gender care. No clinical trials have established their safety for such off-label use. The drugs’ long-term effects on fertility and sexual function remain unclear. And in 2016, the FDA ordered makers of puberty blockers to add a warning about psychiatric problems to the drugs’ label after the agency received several reports of suicidal thoughts in children who were taking them. These drugs also have been linked to tens of thousands of serious reactions and thousands of deaths, as well as other serious medical issues, according to Food & Drug Administration (FDA) data. In 2019, the FDA documented over 41,000 adverse reactions suffered by patients who took Leuprolide Acetate, known as Lupron, which is used as a hormone blocker. There have been 25,645 reactions considered “serious,” including 6,379 deaths. Lupron is traditionally used for treatment of prostate cancer as it inhibits the flow of testosterone over the prostate.

In an interview with The Christian Post, Dr. Michael Laidlaw, a California-based pediatric endocrinologist, stated that he knows of no other psychological condition that is treated by administering hormones out of alignment from their normal levels. When injected into a physically healthy body, the drug interrupts a normally-functioning endocrine system and causes a condition where the male testes or the female ovaries produce little or no sex hormones. 

Dr. Laidlaw said, “Gender dysphoria is not an endocrine condition, but is a psychological one and should, therefore, be treated with proper psychological care. But it becomes an endocrine condition once you start using puberty blockers and giving cross-sex hormones to kids. There have been few physicians willing to stand up and say, 'We need to question this, there is something wrong here. Why are we using cancer drugs on kids without cancer and stopping normal puberty?” Laidlaw said. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “This is a great victory for counselors and their clients to choose the counsel of their choice free of political censorship from government ideologues. Let this be a warning to any government that has not repealed similar counseling bans. These speech restrictive laws violate the First Amendment. This case is the beginning of the end of similar unconstitutional counseling bans around the country.” 

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