Judge Upholds Conversion Therapy Bans in Palm Beach County 

Judge Robin Rosenberg. Photo via the Palm Beach County Circuit Court

In a decision that had local LGBT rights activists holding their breath a judge last week upheld bans on conversion therapy in Boca Raton and Palm Beach County.

“...the Court concludes that Defendants have identified a compelling interest in protecting the safety and welfare of minors. Protecting minors may be the paradigm example of a compelling interest,” Judge Robin Rosenberg wrote. “Defendants have pointed to and relied upon extensive credible evidence of the damage that conversion therapy inflicts. This body of information comes from well-known research organizations and subject matter experts.”

The decision comes on the heels of a Tampa area federal magistrate judge recommending the city’s conversion therapy ban be partially blocked. The President and founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, Rand Hoch, was concerned with the recommendation earlier this month and hoped it did not affect the Palm Beach County lawsuit. 

“What surprised me most was that the City of Tampa lost on the First Amendment issues, which has been the strongest portion of the conversion therapy ban cases that have been tried to date,” Hoch said. “In all of the other conversion therapy cases around the U.S. that I am aware of, our side always ultimately prevailed on the First Amendment issues.”

Now that Rosenberg, a President Obama appointee, has upheld the local bans, Hoch is hoping the judge presiding over the case in Tampa will take her ruling into consideration.

"In light of Judge Rosenberg's masterful and well-reasoned ruling, I am hopeful that Judge Jung rejects the magistrate's recommendation," Hoch said.

But even if Judge William Jung, an appointee of President Trump, overturns the ban in Tampa it will not affect Rosenberg’s ruling.   

The local lawsuit was brought by two therapists, Julie Hamilton and Robert Otto. They’re being represented by Liberty Council — a Southern Poverty Law Center designated hate group. Liberty Counsel’s main argument was that conversion therapy bans violated their clients' free speech rights.

Rosenberg rejected that argument. 

The two bans in Boca and Palm Beach County were spearheaded by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. They applauded the judge’s decision. 

"Judge Rosenberg handed LGBTQ children in Palm Beach County a significant victory," Hoch said. "For the time being, young LGBTQ people in Palm Beach County will remain safe from the psychological abuse caused by a handful of quacks who would like to resume practicing conversion therapy here." 

PBCHRC also noted that none out of the 20 conversion therapy bans enacted in Florida apply to members of the clergy — unless they also are licensed mental health professionals. 

The Liberty Council told the Palm Beach Post they’ve already appealed the decision to 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Mathew Staver, Liberty Council attorney, told the Post: “I think [Judge Rosenberg is] flat-out wrong, with all due respect to the court.”  

Conversion therapy is also known at "reparative therapy" or "sexual orientation change efforts" (SOCE). 

The practice has been rejected by every major professional health organization in the U.S. including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American Psychiatric Association.