Liberty Counsel has filed the Opening Brief asking the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the district judge’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction against Maryland’s harmful counseling ban.
The court issued an opinion dismissing Liberty Counsel’s lawsuit against Maryland’s law prohibiting minors from receiving voluntary counseling from licensed professionals to reduce or eliminate unwanted same-sex attractions or gender confusion. However, U.S. District Judge Deborah Chasanow acknowledged the Supreme Court overturned both original cases that upheld similar counseling bans, but then refused to apply the precedent.
In Doyle v. Hogan, Liberty Counsel represents Christopher Doyle, a licensed professional counselor in Virginia and Maryland. Doyle is challenging Maryland’s SB 1028, which was signed into law by Maryland governor Larry Hogan and went into effect on October 1, 2018. Doyle counsels minors who voluntarily seek his help and are struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors and identity. Doyle’s counseling is provided solely through speech, but it is prohibited by Maryland’s counseling ban because the state disapproves Doyle’s viewpoint.
In its decision, the district refused to apply the Supreme Court’s decision in National Institute for Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra (NIFLA). The district court relied upon the decisions in Pickup v. Brown and King v. Governor of New Jersey, both of which held counseling bans like Maryland’s are permissible under the First Amendment because licensed professionals do not engage in fully protected speech when counseling clients. But in NIFLA, the Supreme Court specifically overruled both decisions by name. The Maryland district court ignored NIFLA’s abrogation of Pickup and King and repeated their error by assigning less First Amendment protection to Doyle’s counseling speech.
“Maryland has condemned children to struggle with their sexual and gender identities without the ability to seek the help they want,” said Liberty Counsel’s Assistant Vice President of Legal Affairs Roger Gannam. “Children should be allowed to know that irreversible hormone treatments and surgeries are not the only options.”
Liberty Counsel’s Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “This Maryland counseling ban is an unconstitutional speech restriction that violates the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has already ruled that professional speech is not a First Amendment orphan. We have appealed this case and are ready to take it up to the Supreme Court,” said Staver.