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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) on Friday hailed the decision of a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals that struck down laws that ban counselors from providing minor clients with help to reduce or eliminate unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or gender confusion.

The case of Otto, et al v. City of Boca Raton, FL et al, found that the laws were both content and viewpoint-based and violate the First Amendment right to free speech. Liberty Counsel Attorneys represented Dr. Robert Otto, LMFT, Dr. Julie Hamilton, LMFT, and their minor clients who challenged the constitutionality of ordinances enacted by the City of Boca Raton and Palm Beach County, which prohibit minors from receiving voluntary counseling from licensed professionals. These licensed therapists provide life-saving counseling to youth who desperately desire to conform their attractions, behaviors, and gender identities to biological reality. 

Dr. Michelle Cretella, Executive Director of ACPeds, stated, “Adolescence is well recognized as a period marked by sexual fluidity and instability of homosexual attractions.”

In 2007, Savin-Williams and Ream examined data from the large longitudinal AdHealth study. Seventy-five percent of adolescents who had some initial homosexual attraction between the ages of 17-21 changed to experience opposite-sex attraction only. This is in stark contrast to the stability found among adolescents experiencing opposite-sex attractions. Among these adolescents, 98% fully retained their opposite-sex attractions into adulthood. Similarly, in regard to gender discordance among minors, resolution rates between 60 and 90 percent have been documented. 

Unethical forms of therapy for same-sex attraction, colloquially known by the provocative, pejorative, and ill-defined term “conversion therapy”, were rejected by the professional medical and psychological communities four decades ago.

However, in recent years, political activists have enacted so-called “conversion therapy bans” in 20 states and in over 80 cities and counties across America that criminalize ethical talk therapy. Ethical counseling for unwanted same-sex attraction and non-traditional gender identities involves a client engaging in voluntary talk therapy with a licensed counselor to explore possible subconscious meanings, motivations, traumas, and other experiences that may contribute to the unwanted same-sex attractions or gender confusion.

Modern conversion therapy bans criminalize ethical counselors; counselors who understand that sexual abuse could cause a child’s same-sex attraction or gender discordance; counselors who provide talk therapy that helps boys identify more as boys and girls identify more as girls.   

Dr. Andre Van Mol, Co-chair of the ACPeds Committee on Adolescent Sexuality concluded, “The 11th Circuit Court decision is a victory for ethical counseling, the therapists who provide it, and the many patients who desire the simple freedom to pursue counseling options that bring them true happiness and joy.”  

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