Young people battling unwanted same-sex attraction are fighting back against a Tampa, Florida, ordinance that bans licensed counselors from providing talk therapy to minors seeking to reduce or eliminate those attractions.
Liberty Counsel, which is representing counselors Robert Vazzo and David Pickup and their minor clients, went to court Thursday seeking a preliminary injunction to suspend the ordinance.
The conservative advocacy group filed a lawsuit last December after the Tampa City Council voted unanimously to approve the ban. Therapists found to be in violation would be fined up to $1,000, while repeat offenders could face a $5,000 penalty.
The non-profit legal group argues that counselors and their clients share a "sacred trust" that allows clients to "inform the counselors of their goals and receive counseling consistent with such goals."
Furthermore, Liberty Counsel's founder and chairman, Mat Staver, says the ordinance violates the First Amendment by "imposing a viewpoint and content-based prohibition on the speech on licensed professionals."
"The city of Tampa has no authority to prohibit counselors from providing counsel which their clients seek," said Staver. "The government has no business eavesdropping inside the counseling rooms, and the city has no authority to enact a local counseling regulation."
Staver also argues that such laws ultimately end up hurting the children they're purported to protect.
"These ordinances are unconstitutional and prevent minors in Boca Raton and Palm Beach County from getting the help they seek from unwanted gender confusion," he said.
Liberty Counsel bills itself as an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization that is dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family.