Washington state’s ban on ‘conversion therapy’ for children has been unanimously upheld by a federal appeals court.
The ruling, which was given on 6 September, rejected a Christian therapist’s claim that the ban undermined his free speech and unfairly targeted him because of his religion.
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals said the legislation protects the “physical and psychological well-being” of minors and does not violate the First Amendment.
Writing on behalf of a three-judge panel, Circuit Judge Ronald Gould added: “Washington, like other states, has concluded that health care providers should not be able to treat a child by such means as telling him that he is ‘the abomination we had heard about in Sunday school.”
“States do not lose the power to regulate the safety of medical treatments performed under the authority of a state license merely because those treatments are implemented through speech rather than through scalpel,” he continued.
The legislation, which was introduced in 2018, prevents licensed health care providers from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of those under the age of 18.
‘Conversion therapy’ is typically defined as any attempt at changing or suppressing a person’s sexuality or gender identity, often involving techniques such as electroshock therapy or prayer.
It has been widely condemned by health experts and bodies all over the world, including the National Health Service and the World Health Organisation, with some comparing it to torture.
A commitment to banning ‘conversion therapy’ was first made by Theresa May’s administration in 2018, though is yet to be implemented in the UK.
More than 20 states in the US now have laws against the practice.