The city of Boca Raton banned gay conversion therapy, a practice the United Nations has characterized as torture. A federal appeals judge would later strike down the city’s ban. Today a federal judge has ordered Palm Beach County and the City of Boca Raton to pay $175,000 to two family therapists who challenged a local ban on gay conversion therapy for minors struggling with their sexuality, gender identity and faith.

Robert Otto and Julie Hamilton ran afoul of Boca Raton’s ban on conversion therapy, which considered the practice harmful to the health and emotional development of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other youth. A district court upheld the law, but Otto and Hamilton appealed, backed by religious-liberty advocates at Liberty Counsel. In 2020, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Otto and Hamilton. Judge Britt Grant wrote “We hold that the challenged ordinances violate the First Amendment because they are content-based regulations of speech that cannot survive strict scrutiny.” U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg said Otto will receive $50,000 from the county and another $50,000 from the city and Hamilton will get $50,000 from the county and $25,000 from the city.

Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a legal religious freedom advocacy group representing the therapists said the difference between the awards has to do with the extent of each therapist’s practice in Boca Raton. Staver said “ the legal ruling prioritizes the first amendment rights of the therapists and the clients who seek their services over the opinions of third-party groups” Opponents of conversion therapy say it fails teenagers by directing them toward an “unattainable” outcome, according to an amicus brief filed in the case by the National Center for Lesbian Rights. The American Psychological Association also has weighed in against conversion therapy. The judge will determine the amount due to Otto and Hamilton’s lawyers at a later date.