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Court upholds Washington state law banning 'conversion therapy' for gay youth with unwanted attractions

Brian Tingley
Brian Tingley, a licensed family therapist who filed a lawsuit against Washington State's ban on sexual orientation conversion therapy for minors in May 2021. |

A federal court has rejected a legal challenge to a Washington state law that prohibits sexual orientation change efforts therapy for minors, or what's often derisively known as "conversion therapy."

U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan issued an order Monday ruling against family therapist Brian Tingley, who sued Washington over its ban on therapy practices to help those with unwanted same-sex attraction.

In his ruling, Bryan rejected Tingley's argument that the law violated his freedom of speech or conscience.

“The Washington Conversion Law does not restrain the dissemination of information. It prohibits a licensed therapist from engaging in a specific type of conduct,” wrote Bryan.

“Plaintiff is free to express and exercise his religious beliefs; he is merely prohibited from engaging in a specific type of conduct while acting as a counselor.”

Roger Brooks, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom who represented Tingley in court last week, said in a statement emailed to The Christian Post that he believed all Americans “deserve the right to private conversations, free from government censorship.”

“Washington’s counseling censorship law targets people of faith and threatens to stand between Brian’s clients and the personal counseling goals they choose to pursue with his help,” stated Brooks.

“As the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recognized just last year in the Otto v. Boca Raton decision, laws like this Washington state law violate the First Amendment rights that all Americans rightly treasure.”

Brooks vowed that ADF “will appeal this decision and continue to defend the freedom of all Americans to peacefully live, work and speak according to their deeply held beliefs without fear of punishment.”

In 2018, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed state Senate Bill 5722 into law, which prohibited minors from receiving therapy aimed at changing their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Chad Griffith, president of the prominent LGBT activist group Human Rights Campaign, celebrated the bill's passage, labeling sexual orientation change efforts therapy as a “dangerous and abusive practice.”

“Medical professionals agree this harmful and discredited practice not only doesn’t work, but can also have life-threatening consequences,” said Griffith in a statement at the time.

In May, Tingley filed the lawsuit challenging the law in district court, arguing in part that it was dangerously vague in its language and violated the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.

“Washington state seeks to insert itself into the privacy of Plaintiff’s counseling room and censor his discussion and exploration of certain ideas with his young clients,” stated the complaint.

"[T]he law sweeps in even simple conversation, within a voluntary counseling relationship between a minor client and his chosen counselor, in pursuit of personal goals set by the client.”

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