Saturday, December 12, 2020

Palm Beach County, Boca Raton Challenge Appeals Court Ruling Overturning Conversion Therapy Bans

 By Jason Parsley, South Florida Gay News - December 11, 2020

Photo via Clerk & Comptroller, Palm Beach County's Facebook.

Boca Raton and Palm Beach County filed a petition with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Friday asking the court to review a November ruling where a three-judge panel found their bans on conversion therapy for minors unconstitutional. 

It was uncertain if the county and city were going to challenge the ruling.

The petition is calling for an en banc review, which means all 12 judges would hear the case. The petition also states that the majority opinion overturning the bans “conflicts with circuit precedent” and its interpretation of “strict scrutiny” departs “from the U.S. Supreme Court.”

“The decision, possibly unintentionally, included language suggesting it constituted a final decision on the merits, even though the Court was merely reviewing the denial of a preliminary injunction; the Governments are entitled to their day in court to present additional evidence,” the petition reads.

According to Rand Hoch, the president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, the judges in the majority should never have ruled on the merits in this case until a trial was held.

“Two recently appointed appellate court judges ignored legal precedent, as well as extensive evidence that conversion therapy causes harm to LGBTQ children,” said Hoch in a prepared statement. "As a result of this erroneous ruling, LGBTQ youth in Florida once again can be subjected to the psychological abuse caused by conversion therapy."

Judge Britt Grant, joined by Judge Barbara Lagoa, wrote the majority opinion. Both are appointees of President Donald Trump. Lagoa previously served on the Florida Supreme Court and Trump briefly considered her as his Supreme Court nominee to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The controversial practice known as conversion therapy has been discredited by most professional medical associations and 20 states, and more than 80 counties and municipalities in the U.S. have enacted laws prohibiting the practice on minors.

The initial challenge to the laws in Palm Beach County and Boca Raton were brought by well-known local anti-LGBT therapists Robert Otto and Julie Hamilton.

"Today's petition was filed in the hope that all 12 judges on the Eleventh Circuit will reverse the panel’s decision," said Hoch. “If the panel’s ruling is allowed to stand, all conversion therapy bans in Florida will be struck down. Moreover municipalities in Florida, Alabama and Georgia could be prohibited from enacting laws to provide protection against conversion therapy.”

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