New York City sued for banning gay cure therapy

Dr David Schwartz

A New York City law banning gay cure therapy is facing a legal challenge from a anti-LGBT lobbying group.

New York City Council passed legislation in 2017 outlawing conversion therapy on minors in the city, before a statewide ban was passed in January 2019.

Orthodox Jewish therapist sues New York City over gay cure ban

Dr David Schwartz, an Orthodox Jewish therapist, has launched a legal challenge against the city, alleging the law violates his freedom of speech and religion.

In a January 23 federal court filing, Brooklyn therapist Schwartz alleges that the ban on conversion therapy is in “direct violation of freedom of speech and of free exercise of religion,” because it prevents him from attempting to cure his patients of homosexuality.

The legal challenge was brought by Alliance Defending Freedom, which is listed as an anti-LGBT hate group by extremism watchdog the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Alliance Defending Freedom is suing New York City over the gay cure ban

Alliance Defending Freedom is suing New York City over the gay cure ban.

The ADF’s lawyers argue: “Dr. Schwartz has a right to use his professional skills to assist patients to live in accordance with their shared religious faith, including the religious mandates of the Torah.

“By purporting to prohibit Dr. Schwartz from providing counseling to his fellow Jews that is guided by and consistent with his religious convictions concerning human nature and the possibility of change… the Counseling Censorship Law violates his right to freely exercise his religion guaranteed by the First Amendment.”

Alliance Defending Freedom counsel Roger Brooks said: “It is difficult to imagine a more direct violation of freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment than New York City’s attempt to regulate the private sessions between an adult and his counselor.

“The city council’s regulation is unprecedented and threatens to stand between Dr. Schwartz’s patients and the lives they choose to pursue.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is a listed hate group

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has previously brought several cases seeking to undermine LGBT+ anti-discrimination protections across the US.

ADF filed a string of lawsuits challenging state-level anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT+ people, most notably representing anti-LGBT baker Jack Phillips, to advance the argument that religious freedom gives Christian business owners the right to discriminate against gay customers.

US baker Jack Phillips, who is suing after he refused to make a trans customer a cake

Alliance Defending Freedom client Jack Phillips talks with journalists in front of the Supreme Court after the court heard the case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission December 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

The group has also actively supported the criminalisation of homosexuality in Belize, while ADF leaders have previously linked homosexuality and paedophilia.

Despite its extreme views, however, the Trump administration has maintained close links to the law firm.

Under former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department frequently weighed in on court battles on the side of the ADF, filing a brief to the Supreme Court supporting Phillips.

US Solicitor General Noel Francisco delivered oral arguments as part of the baker’s defence on behalf of the Trump administration.