Appeals court says what Liberty Counsel already knew

Appeals court says what Liberty Counsel already knew

Appeals court says what Liberty Counsel already knew

The founder and chairman of a Christian legal ministry says a federal court of appeals was right to rule against an unconstitutional ordinance in Tampa.

Mat Staver is founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, the law firm representing counselors in this case. The ban, he says, prohibited licensed counselors from providing voluntary talk therapy to minors seeking help in reducing or eliminating unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or gender identity issues, and his firm argued in Vazzo v. City of Tampa that the ban was unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

"The court of appeals struck down this Tampa counseling ban," Staver reports. "It was virtually identical to the one that the court of appeals struck down in Boca Raton, Florida and also Palm Beach County, Florida. They found that it was obviously the same, and it is under the precedent of the case down in South Florida that we won, and consequently, that this also violates the First Amendment."

Supporters of the ban say people should not be forced to be something they are not, but Staver points out that counselors are not the ones trying to do that.

Staver, Mat (Liberty Counsel) Staver

"Counseling always is client directed," he explains. "Counselors are like a GPS, if you will -- they assist a client in finding and locating and achieving their ultimate direction and goals. They don't force them, they don't set the objective, they don't set the course; the counselor is the one that just simply helps the client reach their own objective."

The attorney submits, however, that with such counseling bans, the government is actually attempting to direct the outcome, "and it's a pro-LGBTQ outcome, not one of the client's choice or one of the counselor's expertise."

The city of Tampa could appeal the case to the Supreme Court, but Staver doubts that it will.

"They have already talked about settling the case, so we are in negotiations already," he tells AFN. "It is done. It is over. I think what we are going to see is a settlement with regards to a monetary value and a repeal of the ordinance."