NYC pays $100K in damages over former ban on gay 'conversion therapy'

Dovid Schwartz
Licensed Orthodox Jewish psychotherapist Dr. Dovid Schwartz |

New York City has agreed to pay $100,000 in attorney’s fees and damages to end a legal battle with a Jewish practitioner of sexual orientation "conversion therapy."

Last October, the city officially repealed an ordinance that banned the practice following legal action taken by an Orthodox Jewish psychotherapist named Dr. David Schwartz.

In a recent settlement, the city agreed to pay $100,000 in attorney’s fees and other expenses to the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented Schwartz.

“Defendants do hereby release and discharge Plaintiff from all manner of actions or causes of action, suit, debts, damages, sums of money or claims of any kind which they had, now have, or may in the future claim to have, arising out of the subject matter of the Litigation,” explained the settlement.

ADF Senior Counsel Roger Brooks said in a statement Tuesday that he and his organization were “grateful that New York City is no longer threatening to censor Dr. Schwartz’s conversations and impose government-approved orthodoxy on him or his patients.”

“New York City directly violated our client’s freedom of speech by trying to regulate and censor private sessions between an adult and his therapist,” stated Brooks.

“While the city eventually saw the writing on the wall and reversed course, it needlessly cost the taxpayers of New York tens of thousands of dollars for enacting its unconstitutional policy in the first place, because Dr. Schwartz was forced to go to court to protect his rights. Other cities should not repeat the same error.”

In 2017, the New York City Council passed a measure banning "conversion therapy," a controversial practice that seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation or reduce unwanted same-sex attraction. 

Then Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito sponsored the measure, saying in a statement at the time that it was aimed at promoting acceptance of all people, regardless of sexual orientation.

“Our great country is land of the free meaning ALL individuals should be able to live without fear of coercion into change into someone they are not,” stated Mark-Viverito, as reported by Metro.

“Conversion therapy is barbaric and inhumane, and right here in New York City, we will continue to be the model for acceptance across the nation as we ban conversion therapy once and for all.”

In January 2019, Schwartz, a licensed psychotherapist and adherent to the Lubavitcher Orthodox Jewish Community in Brooklyn, filed suit against the measure, being represented by the ADF.

For decades, Schwartz has served clients who want to overcome same-sex attraction due to their religious beliefs. ADF noted that he "uses no techniques in working with his patients other than listening and talking."

"[C]lients who seek his counsel often desire to experience opposite-sex attraction so they can marry, form a natural family, and live consistently with their Orthodox Jewish faith. A number of patients have pursued and achieved those goals with the aid of his psychotherapeutic services," ADF explained.

Last September, openly gay Council Speaker Corey Johnson introduced a repeal of the ban, with the prevailing concern being that the ban would not survive a legal challenge.

“Obviously I didn’t want to repeal this,” stated Johnson at the time. “I don’t want to be someone who is giving in to these right-wing groups. But the Supreme Court has become conservative; the Second Circuit, which oversees New York, has become more conservative.”

Although New York City no longer has a local ordinance prohibiting conversion therapy, New York State does currently maintain a ban on the practice for minors.

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