New York City to Repeal Ban on Counseling for Same-Sex, Gender Dysphoria

Male psychologist making notes during psychological therapy
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The New York City Council is repealing a ban on counseling to help those who suffer from unwanted same-sex attraction and gender confusion.

The council is backing down from its ban for fear the Supreme Court would strike it down along with other similar bans throughout the country.

Council speaker Corey Johnson, a gay man, said a repeal on the ban on what LGBT activist groups call “conversion therapy” is the “most responsible, prudent course,” reported the New York Times.

“Obviously I didn’t want to repeal this,” he said. “I don’t want to be someone who is giving in to these right-wing groups. But the Supreme Court has become conservative; the Second Circuit, which oversees New York, has become more conservative.”

Two years ago, the council passed its ordinance that bans counseling for unwanted same-sex attraction or gender confusion. The ban applies to adults who are voluntarily seeking help from mental health professionals and controls what the professionals may say to their patients.

However, Dr. Dovid Schwartz, a licensed psychotherapist and member of the Lubavitcher Orthodox Jewish Community in Brooklyn, has challenged the New York City ordinance with a lawsuit.

Schwartz is represented by nonprofit law firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which advocates for religious freedom. Should the lawsuit reach the Supreme Court and be declared unconstitutional, similar laws throughout the country could be blocked.

Sarah Kramer explained at the ADF website how the New York City law censors what therapists are permitted to say to their patients who are seeking their help:

It’s an amazingly one-sided law. Under this law, a counselor is free to help a patient explore, develop, or gain comfort with same-sex attractions or almost any gender identity imaginable (transgender activists claim gender is a “spectrum” or “Mobius”). But the law prohibits a counselor from assisting a patient who wishes to reduce same-sex attraction or achieve comfort in a gender identity that matches her or his physical body. The fines include $1,000 for the first violation, $5,000 for the second, and $10,000 for any violations after that.

“But New York City’s new ordinance is the most far-reaching and intrusive, as it reaches in to censor what can be said in an intensely private and voluntary counseling conversation between two adults,” Kramer wrote, explaining that the majority of Schwartz’s clients share his faith and are seeking help to overcome same-sex attraction in order to marry and have families as is consistent with the beliefs of their Orthodox Jewish faith.

She continued:

Dr. Schwartz should not be forced, in the course of those very private discussions, to be used by the government as a tool to impose the viewpoint on human sexuality that the New York City Council prefers.

And, even beyond that, the government has no business telling people what personal goals they can or can’t pursue. If a man wants to marry a woman and have a family, that’s his choice. The government cannot keep him from pursuing that goal simply because they disagree with it.

Thus far, LGBT activist groups have convinced 18 state legislatures to pass counseling bans for minors who are uncomfortable with same-sex attraction or with their biological sex. Some of these laws are also being challenged as unconstitutional.

Though Maine’s current Democrat Gov. Janet Mills has signed into law a counseling ban for minors, her predecessor, former Republican Gov. Paul LePage, vetoed the legislation.

“This is so broad that licensed professionals would be prohibited from counseling an individual even at the individual’s own request,” he wrote in a veto announcement, adding:

We should not prohibit professionals from counseling an individual even at the individual’s own request. We should not prohibit professionals from providing their expertise to those who seek it for their own personal and basic questions such as, “How do I deal with these feelings I am experiencing?

Parents have the right to seek counsel and treatment for their children from professionals who do not oppose the parents’ own religious beliefs. Because the standard of practice for these professionals already prohibits any practice or therapy that would amount to physical or mental abuse, what we are really trying to regulate are the private, consultative conversations between a licensed provider and a client.

ADF Senior Council Roger Brooks said the New York City Council’s ordinance is “unprecedented and threatens to stand between Dr. Schwartz’s patients and the lives they choose to pursue.”

“As the U.S. Supreme Court noted in its 2018 NIFLA decision, ‘[T]he people lose when the government is the one dictating which ideas should prevail,’” Brooks added.

Liberty Counsel, another nonprofit law firm that advocates for religious freedom, is currently challenging counseling bans in Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, and California.

In a press release, Liberty Counsel explained it is awaiting a decision on a motion for summary judgement in Tampa, Florida, that asks a federal court to permanently block the city’s counseling ban that prohibits licensed counselors “from providing talk therapy to minors seeking help to reduce or eliminate their unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity.”

The law firm asserts the counseling ban violates the First Amendment and imposes significant monetary fines on therapists who provide the voluntary counseling.

“Repealing the New York City counseling ban ordinance is a step in the right direction,” said Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel chairman. “It’s only a matter of time, however, before one of these counseling bans is struck down before the Supreme Court.”

Staver said the laws are a “gross intrusion into the fundamental rights of counselors and clients.”

“Every person should have access to the counselor of his or her choice,” he added. “No government has the authority to prohibit a form of counseling simply because it does not like the religious or moral beliefs of a particular counselor or client.”

The case is Schwartz v. The City of New York, No. 1:19-CV-463, in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York.

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