Maryland Counseling Ban in Appeals Court

Oct 26, 2020

GREENBELT, MD – Liberty Counsel will present oral argument today to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals asking it to reverse the district judge’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction against Maryland's harmful counseling ban. 

In Doyle v. Hogan, Liberty Counsel represents Christopher Doyle, a licensed professional counselor in Virginia and Maryland. Doyle is challenging Maryland's SB 1028, which was signed into law by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and went into effect on October 1, 2018. Doyle counsels minors who voluntarily seek his help and are struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors and identity. Doyle’s counseling is provided solely through speech, but it is prohibited by Maryland’s counseling ban because the state disapproves Doyle’s viewpoint. 

The lower court issued an opinion dismissing Liberty Counsel’s lawsuit against Maryland's law prohibiting minors from receiving voluntary counseling from licensed professionals to reduce or eliminate unwanted same-sex attractions or gender confusion. However, U.S. District Judge Deborah Chasanow acknowledged the Supreme Court overturned both original cases that upheld similar counseling bans, but then did not apply the precedent. 

In its decision, the district refused to apply the Supreme Court's decision in National Institute for Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra (NIFLA). The district court relied upon the decisions in Pickup v. Brown and King v. Governor of New Jersey, both of which held counseling bans like Maryland's are permissible under the First Amendment because licensed counselors engage in “professional speech or conduct” and not fully protected speech when counseling clients. But in NIFLA, the Supreme Court specifically overruled both decisions by name, writing there is no such category as “professional speech.” NIFLA warned about creating speech categories and then relegating the speech to a lower First Amendment protection. The Maryland district court ignored NIFLA’s abrogation of Pickup and King and repeated their error by assigning less First Amendment protection to Doyle’s counseling speech.

Liberty Counsel has been instrumental in defeating proposed laws in numerous states which sought to prohibit counselors – including pastors, teachers, and parents – from providing counsel to any minor (including a parent’s own child) about the child’s unwanted same-sex attractions or gender confusion. This counseling can save children’s lives before they make tragic choices. 

Walt Heyer struggled with gender dysphoria as a result of being sexually abused as a boy by a family member, combined with his grandmother’s decision to secretly clothe him as a girl. Heyer had “gender reassignment surgery.” However, after he experienced restoration and healing from a relationship with Jesus Christ, Heyer reverted to his biological gender as a man. Now Heyer helps thousands of people whose lives have been torn apart by unnecessary hormone blockers and surgery. 

Heyer says, “I see the tragic consequences of policies to expand gender/sex beyond male and female, in the desperate letters I receive from those who regret gender transitioning and from the families of those who are still caught in the transgender delusion. My email inbox has exploded lately with requests from transgender people wanting to find a 'good therapist' who will help them detransition—that is, go back.” 

For more than 20 years, a growing body of research has focused on suicidality among "transgender" individuals, including prevalence estimates and risk factors associated with suicide thoughts and attempts. Studies of the "transgender" population demonstrate that the prevalence of suicidal thoughts and attempts among "transgender" adults is significantly higher than that of the U.S. general population. The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS), which is the largest survey of "transgender" people in the U.S. to date, found that 81.7 percent of respondents reported ever seriously thinking about suicide in their lifetimes, while 48.3 percent had done so in the past year. Regarding suicide attempts, 40.4 percent reported attempting suicide at some point in their lifetimes, and 7.3 percent reported attempting suicide in 2015. 

Liberty Counsel’s Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “This Maryland counseling ban condemns minors to struggle with unwanted sexual and gender identities without the ability to seek the help they want. This is an unconstitutional speech restriction that violates the First Amendment because counselors should be permitted to assist clients in their self-determined goals. The Supreme Court has already ruled that professional speech is not a First Amendment orphan.” 

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