The last place anyone would expect liberals to rethink their extremism is New York City. But, thanks to a new lawsuit, even the Big Apple seems to understand when it’s vulnerable. “Pinch yourself,” FRC’s Cathy Ruse says. One of the most radical cities on earth is about to walk back its LGBT counseling ban. All because one courageous psychotherapist fought back.
Like most Americans, Dr. Dovid Schwartz doesn’t want the government telling him what he can and can’t say — especially not to patients in desperate need of a listening ear. As someone who’s practiced in New York City for 50 years, he’s seen countless people who want his help overcoming same-sex attractions. After the council passed its ban on talk therapy for patients like his, simply offering that help would have come at a price: $1,000, $5,000, or $10,000 for first, second, and third violations. In Schwartz’s opinion, people should have the right to seek whatever counseling they need. By passing the law, they weren’t just punishing therapists, they were punishing patients. It’s “inhumane,” he argued.
So, with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, he filed a lawsuit. And, without even stepping foot in a courtroom, Schwartz won. The council, seeing the writing on the wall, buckled, announcing that it would be the first legislative body in America to reverse itself on the issue. “Obviously, I didn’t want to repeal this,” the council’s speaker, Corey Johnson, told reporters last week. “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. [And] we think this is the most responsible, prudent course.”
Friday, on “Washington Watch,” lead ADF attorney Roger Brooks told listeners that this case was about a lot more than sexual orientation or gender identity. It goes to the heart of free speech as we know it. “What this lawsuit is about is defending the right of New Yorkers — and obviously, down the road, protect every American to pursue their [own] lives [and seek their own] counsel… [T]here were fundamental constitutional issues at stake… And the bottom line, I think, is that after they looked a little harder at the case, the city attorneys had to agree and agreed that this was simply found unconstitutional.”
ADF’s hope — and ours — is that more elected officials see what’s happening in New York and stop to think about the dangerous side effects to policies like this one. This law, he points out, “extended to conversations between a therapist and an adult,” but there are a great many other laws that take aim at minors and their free speech and personal rights. “Some of those laws are currently being challenged… [and] I think that this case is likely to slow down the emotion elsewhere in the country.” Maybe, he hints, it’s the start of something.
FRC’s Ruse agrees. In a column for the Stream, she talks about the significance of the LGBT movement — “a wrecking ball against any cultural or legal edifice in its way — repealing its own law out of fear. It fears that the new slate of federal judges — who see themselves as umpires and not social problem-solvers — might well strike its law. And in the process, create a precedent that threatens other new laws policing LGBT speech. This is, in a word, huge. It might even rise to the level of a paradigm shift.”
But, she warns, it’s not over until it’s over. “Even if the New York City gag rule is repealed, nearly 20 state gag rules still stand, including one passed by the New York General Assembly this January.” That’s where you come in. There are plenty of local councils and state leaders trying to keep Americans trapped in a lifestyle of pain and bondage. Ohio has a hearing on a similar ban this Wednesday. Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin aren’t far behind. Make sure you’re informed. Find out how Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) are helping people — and what you can do to protect them in Peter Sprigg’s new issue analysis, here.
Tony Perkins’s Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC Action senior writers.
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