A federal judge dismissed the action of a psychotherapist who defies Maryland's ban on treating minors with conversion therapy, the practice of trying to change a client's homosexual orientation.
US District Judge Deborah Chasanow's ruling on Friday rejected Christopher Doyle's allegations that state law violates his First Amendment rights to freedom of expression and religious freedom.
The judge said banning the practice of conversion therapy for minors does not prevent licensed therapists from expressing their personal views on conversion therapy to small clients.
Roger Gannam, one of Doyle's lawyers, said on Monday they would appeal the judge's decision. Doyle is represented by attorneys at Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal defense organization based in Orlando, Florida.
Republican Governor Larry Hogan signed the measure in May 2018. The law, which came into force in October 2018, made Maryland the 11th state to enact legislation against conversion therapy for minors.
In his 25-page ruling, Chasanow said the legislation backed by research and findings from professional organizations demonstrating conversion therapy is likely to be harmful to minors.
"These sources indicate that conducting child conversion therapy could potentially impair their physical and emotional well-being and thus prohibiting the practice of child conversion therapy would diminish the harmful outcomes caused by conversion therapy," he said. she.
The law only prohibits conversion therapy when it is conducted by licensed professionals in minors and only prohibits speech "spoken in the process of conducting conversion therapy," the judge noted.
During a hearing, Doyle's lawyers argued that the law makes no distinction between voluntary and forced change efforts.
"However, children under 16 have no ability to consent to psychological treatment," the judge wrote, saying that Doyle did not offer a viable alternative "that would achieve the restrictive effect he wants."
Gannam said the plaintiffs' lawyers disagree with the judge's analysis and the standard she applied in assessing First Amendment arguments.
"The mistake is to treat the speech of professionals like Doyle differently from other constitutionally protected speeches," he said.
Doyle also argued that the ban violated and his clients' First Amendment right to receive information. However, Chasanow decided in August that Doyle could not file complaints on behalf of his clients.
Doyle's lawsuit, which opened in January, named Hogan and Democrat Attorney General Brian Frosh as defendants. Raquel Coombs, a spokesman for Frosh's office, said conversion therapy "depends on the false assumption that an LGBTQ individual is broken and needs to be fixed."
"Advocates for this type of therapy are selling something that doesn't improve people's lives, but, as the court agreed, it's really harmful to minors," Coombs said in a statement.
Doyle is a mental health therapist at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia and is executive director of the Institute for Healthy Families in the Washington, D.C. area.
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