U.S. City to ‘Investigate and Punish those Who Dare to Voice Opposing Views’

City officials in La Crosse, Wisconsin, who recently adopted a pro-LGBT agenda point by banning “counseling” that seeks to “change” a person’s sexual orientation, are being warned they can get in trouble for it.

Constitutional trouble.

“La Crosse’s ordinance threatens parents, ministers, and counselors, among others, with punishment if they share sincerely held views on issues of sex and gender with children in their care,” explained Anthony LoCoco, deputy counsel for WILL, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.

“It is black-letter law that the government has no right to simply penalize speech with which it disagrees. La Crosse needs to rethink its actions.”

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The organization said it released a public letter to the La Crosse Common Council after members there adopted an ordinance that “violates free speech, religious liberty, and parental rights guarantees.”

Those are found in the state and federal constitutions.

It bans “a significant amount of speech on issues of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity,” the organization said.

The situation arose with the adoption of Ordinance No. 5220, which prohibits “any practices or treatments offered or rendered to consumers, including psychological counseling, that seeks [sic] to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender.”

But, WILL pointed out, the city at the same time explicitly allows “counseling that provides assistance to a person undergoing gender transition, or counseling that provides acceptance, support, and understanding of a person or facilitates a person’s coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual-orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices, as long as such counseling does not seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The result, WILL warned the city, is a “sweeping and vague prohibition on disfavored speech,” and it said parents and ministers could face city punishment just for sharing their religious views on matters of gender.

Police officials there have confirmed the concerns expressed by WILL are valid, as they would “investigate” and, “if appropriate, take enforcement action.”

The letter to the council, from Rick Esenberg, WILL president, and others, explains, “The city of La Crosse has determined that the best use of limited municipal resources is to wade into some of the most profound ontological, moral, and religious debates of our age—the meaning and proper ends of sex, gender, and sexual attraction—declare one side the ‘winner,’ and investigate and punish those who dare to voice opposing views.”

The city’s strategy, WILL points out, wasn’t even able to meet the requirements of the World Professional Associate for Transgender Health when it allowed counseling affirming a gender transition but banning any other.

That WPATH standard notes that transitions in early children are “controversial.”

The legal team pointed out that the speech restriction is so broad that simple expressions of Scripture could be considered violations.

It suggested the council repeal the strategy, or expect a lawsuit.

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