Judgment Against Palm Beach County Counseling Ban

Mar 6, 2023

PALM BEACH COUNTY, FL – After losing on appeal, Palm Beach County 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, Palm Beach County 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 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. 

As a result of these victories, counselors in Florida, Alabama and Georgia are free to help their minor clients.

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. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Let this be a warning to any government that has not repealed similar counseling bans.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. These victories set a precedent that minors who are struggling with gender confusion can get the help they need from counselors who are free from political censorship.” 

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