Citing a First Amendment violation, the anti-LGBTQ hate group Liberty Counsel filed a suit in federal court against the city of Tampa for enacting a ban on gay conversion therapy for minors.
Liberty Counsel is representing Robert Vazzo, LMFT, David Pickup, LMFT, and their minor clients and their parents in the case against the city. A noted figure in the gay conversion therapy industry, Pickup raised eyebrows last month when he introduced a flamboyant flag dancer as the opening act at an anti-LGBTQ conference in Texas.
According to a statement released by Liberty Counsel, "Ordinance 2017-47 violates the First Amendment by imposing a viewpoint and content-based prohibition on the speech of licensed professionals in Tampa who offer change counseling." Liberty Counsel further claims that the ordinance violates the rights of clients under the Florida Patient's Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.
Tampa's ban on gay conversion therapy was passed by the City Council unanimously last April. The ban, which levies fines on mental health practitioners and counselors who engage who purport to change or curb a minor's sexual orientation or gender identity. Similar bans are in place in Miami Beach, Wilton Manors, Miami, North Bay Village, West Palm Beach, Bay Harbor Islands, Lake Worth, El Portal, Key West, Boynton Beach, Tampa, Delray Beach, Riviera Beach, Wellington, Greenacres, Boca Raton and Oakland Park.
Metro notes that under the ordinance, anyone caught engaging in the practice can be fined up to $1,000. Repeat offenders can face fines as high as $5,000. However, there is an exemption for those affiliated with religious organizations who are not licensed therapists.