Maryland Judge Dismisses Christian Therapist’s Lawsuit Challenging State’s Ban on Gay Conversion Therapy

A federal judge in Maryland has dismissed an ex-gay psychotherapist’s lawsuit against a state law banning mental health professions from providing so-called “gay conversion therapy” to people struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction. 

U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow, who was nominated by Democrat President Bill Clinton in 1993, granted the state’s request to throw out the legal challenge to the Youth Mental Health Protection Act.

The bill, signed into law last May by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, prohibits certain mental health or childcare practitioners from engaging in “conversion therapy with an individual who is a minor.”

The legislation labels this type of counseling, known as sexual orientation change efforts, as “unprofessional conduct” that is subject to disciplinary action.

Licensed professional counselor Christopher Doyle filed the lawsuit with help from the Christian conservative nonprofit legal group Liberty Counsel, arguing that the new restriction violates the free speech and freedom of religion rights of both he and his clients.

Doyle is a therapist at Patrick Henry College, a Christian institution in Purcellville, Virginia. He also directs the Institute for Healthy Families based in the Washington, D.C., area.

Over the years, Doyle has verbally counseled minors struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction, behaviors or identity who voluntarily seek his help. The lawsuit alleges that the state law prohibits children from seeking the counseling they want.

The judge dismissed the case, however, saying that the lawsuit didn’t state a free speech claim “upon which relief can be granted.”

In her decision, Chasanow contended that the conversion therapy ban would “survive a constitutional challenge under intermediate scrutiny” as the state’s interest in enforcing the law is to protect minors from “harmful conduct.”

“The First Amendment provides that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the Free Exercise thereof,’” Chasanow wrote. “U.S. Const., amend. I. The First Amendment does not, however, provide absolute protection to engage in religiously motivated conduct.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith

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