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Federal Court Strikes Down Tampa's Ban on Counseling for Minors Seeking Freedom


The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down Tampa, Florida's ban against talk therapy for minors seeking freedom from unwanted same-sex attraction.

The city had tried to block licensed therapists from providing voluntary counseling to those minors. The federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that the ban is unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

In 2019, federal Judge William F. Jung had already ruled that Tampa's ban may restrict patients' rights to privacy and parents' rights to choose health care for their children. Jung also refuted the made-up term "conversion therapy" that activists and the establishment news media frequently use. 

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In the case, 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.

The latest ruling is based on Liberty Counsel's previous victory in Otto v. City of Boca Raton in which the Eleventh Circuit had ruled that similar attempts to muzzle counselors from helping their clients in Palm Beach County and the City of Boca Raton were unconstitutional restrictions on the freedom of speech because they targeted specific viewpoints.

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The lower District Court ruling in the Vazzo case had determined that the therapy ban was a statewide concern and beyond the authority of local governments. In reaching that decision, the lower court did not decide the First Amendment claim. But the newer ruling by the Appeals Court permanently strikes down the ordinance under the First Amendment.

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, "This is a great victory for counselors and their clients. Counselors and clients have the freedom to choose the counsel of their choice and be free of political censorship from government-mandated speech."

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