In December 2017, the “progressive” New York City Council passed the Counseling Censorship Law. The vote was: 43 for, 2 (both Orthodox Jews) against, and 1 abstention. In other words, it passed overwhelmingly!
The law stated that if people (adults) came to a licensed therapist like me, and stated that they were attracted to someone of the same sex and did not want to embrace or express this attraction, I could not help them achieve their aim. I could help them become homosexual. I could help them become transgender. But I could not help them overcome their unwanted feelings or thoughts. If I did, I would be fined up to $10,000 per session.
Last Sukkos, I decided to sue the city of New York. I engaged the services of the Alliance for Defending Freedom (ADF), a non-profit First Amendment legal group that has argued cases in front of the Supreme Court over 50 times, winning over 80 percent of the time. The lawsuit stated that this law clearly violated my freedom of speech and freedom of religion. the government has no right or business being in a therapist’s office monitoring the conversation of adults or telling them they cannot try to live according to the teachings of their faith.
The city had a team of five lawyers working on this case. Three of those five lawyers worked for the prestigious law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP. Using lawyers from an outside firm is somewhat unusual for the city, and the extra added expense meant New York did not want to lose this case, which had national significance.
My team consisted of three lawyers from the ADF, headed by Roger Brooks, and a local New York City lawyer, Barry Black. Both sides were prepared to take the case up to the Supreme Court if necessary. My legal team said it could take at least three to four years from beginning to end and I should be prepared for the long haul.
January 23, 2019, we filed our first brief. The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s writings and speeches on responding to homosexual feelings were included in it. Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, vice president emeritus of the Orthodox Union – not a Lubavitcher, added a seven-page document – discussing the Rebbe’s stature and his teachings.
We also filed a 30-page brief from Lawrence Mayer, M.D., PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, which contained supporting studies on sexual orientation and gender identity.
On June 19, my legal team and the city’s legal team appeared in Federal Court for the first hearing in front of Judge Raymond Dearie for a request for a preliminary injunction to allow me to continue seeing cases relating to homosexuality until the mater was finally adjudicated. My legal team said they thought the judge’s decision would take at least three months to be handed down.
Now the miracle unfolds.
One week before the end of the three months – September 11, 2019 – my lead lawyer, Roger Brooks, received a phone call from a New York Times reporter. He said the speaker of the New York City Council, Corey Johnson, who is openly homosexual, would be holding a national news conference the next day to announce that the city of New York would be repealing the Counseling Censorship Law!
After consulting with the national LGBT movement, Johnson realized that the city of New York would most likely lose the case. It realized that the law violated both free speech and the free exercise of religion. And since it didn’t want to look bad before a national audience, the City Council decided after much discussion to repeal the law, a highly unusual move.
Two weeks later – on September 26 – the New York City Council repealed the law, 45-0! What a turnabout. A law that passed 43-2 was repealed 45-0! And instead of 3-4 years –11 months!
My legal team was totally astonished! What a nes!
The Lubavitcher Rebbe often said: Never underestimate what can be done against overwhelming odds. Indeed. Loyalty to Hashem resulted in an anti-Torah law that was almost unanimously passed two years ago being overturned by the very same people –unanimously! Truly a miracle!