Counselors Ask Court of Appeals To Enforce Its Injunction Mandate

Aug 15, 2022

ATLANTA, GA – Liberty Counsel filed a motion today to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals asking it to enforce its mandate for the Southern District Court of Florida to issue the preliminary injunction, so that licensed counselors can provide minor clients and their families in Palm Beach County and the City of Boca Raton counsel to reduce or overcome unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or gender confusion. 

In Otto, et al v. City of Boca Raton, FL et al, the Eleventh Circuit has now ordered the Southern District Court of Florida to respond by noon tomorrow. 

The Eleventh Circuit’s mandate was issued on July 29 ordering the lower court to issue an injunction against the unconstitutional bans. Therefore, The Eleventh Circuit’s directive mandate has been on the district court’s docket for more than two weeks. At that time, the district court had a clear duty to enter a preliminary injunction “consistent with this [Court’s] opinion,” without delay, and without further “review” or “examination.” 

Despite the Eleventh Circuit’s clear mandate to issue an injunction, the district court has refused to do so. On August 4, 2022, six days after the appeals court’s mandate was issued and the district court did not enter the preliminary injunction consistent with the court’s decision, Liberty Counsel filed a motion to the lower court requesting this action. The delay continues to amount to further injury to the protected speech of counselors and irreparably harms their cherished constitutional liberties.

The City of Boca Raton, Florida now argues that because it “voluntarily” passed an “emergency” repeal ordinance—that, by its own terms and the city’s charter automatically expires in sixty days—somehow Plaintiffs’ claims for injunctive relief are now moot. The city is wrong, and the Court should swiftly enter the preliminary injunctive relief that has been ordered by the Eleventh Circuit, against both the City of Boca Raton and the County of Palm Beach. 

Below are the statements from the City Council at that “emergency” meeting on August 5: 

City Attorney Diana Grub Frieser indicated that each City Council member received a communication from Rand Hoch, the leader of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, who was the “primary local advocate” for the passage of the City’s ordinance in 2017, in which Mr. Hoch advised and recommended to the Council to repeal the ordinance and not pursue an appeal, not because the ordinance is unconstitutional, but strategically so as not to jeopardize counseling bans in other jurisdictions with an adverse ruling from the Supreme Court, and expressly to preserve the City’s ability to “reassess” its counseling ban with “changes and other developments” “over time.” 

City Council Member Monica Mayotte, one of the five voters on the City Council, stated that she “understand[s] the reasoning why we have to pass this emergency ordinance, it doesn’t make me happy, but I understand that we don’t want to threaten lawful conversion therapy laws across the state or across the country by appealing this to the Supreme Court,” and she proposes that the unconstitutional ordinance be replaced with a City Council resolution “to admonish conversion therapy in our City . . . that we support the banning, we don’t agree with conversion therapy here in this City, so I would really like to see us move forward with a resolution when the time is appropriate.” 

City Attorney Diana Grub Frieser assured Council Member Mayotte that, if the Council votes to approve the “emergency” repeal ordinance, then, when the permanent repeal ordinance will be considered at a future date, “I will bring back the resolution that declares from a policy standpoint” that the City condemns Counselors’ protected speech.” 

City Council Member Andrea O’Rourke, the second of five voters on the City Council, indicated she fully supports a resolution condemning Counselors’ protected speech, because “it’s the least we can do,” and that she is opposed to Counselors’ protected speech but she will vote in favor of the repeal ordinance because she “want[s] to comply” with Mr. Hoch’s request to repeal the ordinance “because they feel that they won’t have success at the higher level.” Council Member O’Rourke ends by reiterating that the repeal is “a sad thing to have to approve,” but she “would support a resolution saying that we don’t abide, we would not want to abide by this in the City of Boca Raton.” 

City Council Member Yvette Drucker, the third of five voters on the City Council, indicated that she also is “100% super not happy about this, but I understand why we are doing it, and I would agree on a resolution” to condemn Counselors’ protected speech. 

City Mayor Scott Singer, the fourth of five votes on the City Council, indicated that “our policy position is clear,” and boasted that two out of four federal judges that heard this matter (presumably the district judge and the dissenting judge on the Eleventh Circuit’s panel) agreed with the City’s ban on Counselors’ protected speech, and indicated that he supports the repeal “in light of the information shared and the impact on other jurisdictions.” 

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. 

The Eleventh Circuit denied a request from Palm Beach County and the City of Boca Raton for an en banc (by all the appellate judges) review of a decision by a three-judge panel that previously struck down laws in 2020 that ban counselors from providing and minor clients and their families from receiving any counsel to reduce or overcome unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or gender confusion. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals clearly stated each day that passes under these speech restrictive ordinances causes irreparable harm to the counselors and their clients. The district court has no discretion but to issue the injunction. Counselors and clients have the freedom to choose the counsel of their choice and be free of political censorship from government ideologues. Our counselors have waited years to help their clients and now the injunction must be issued.” 

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