So-called ‘conversion therapy’ for minors remains banned in Washington state after the US Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge.
The court made the decision to not hear the case of Tingley v. Ferguson after two lower courts previously rejected Brian Tingley’s challenge, upholding the law to ban ‘conversion therapy’ for minors.
The case was brought forward by Tingley, a licensed family and marriage counsellor who claimed that SB 5722 impinged on his First Amendment rights of freedom of speech.
SB 5722 is a state law, enacted in 2018, that protects those under the age of 18 from ‘conversion therapy’, which is typically defined as any attempt at changing or suppressing a person’s sexuality or gender identity.
It has been condemned by health experts all over the world and often involves techniques such as intensive prayer and, in some cases, electroshock therapy.
Under SB 5722, if a licensed therapist is deemed to have breached therapeutic guidelines that “seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behaviours or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex,” a practitioner’s can be suspended from practice, have their revoked and a fined up to $5000 (£3981)
Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented from the case on Monday 13 December. In the written decision, Thomas said: “There is little question that SB 5722 regulates speech and therefore implicates the First Amendment.”
He further explained that SB 5722 permits licensed counsellors to speak with minors about gender dysphoria as long as they “convey the state-approved message of encouraging minors to explore their gender identities.
“Expressing any other message is forbidden—even if the counselor’s clients ask for help to accept their biological sex. That is viewpoint-based and content-based discrimination in its purest form.”
The Human Rights Campaign tweeted its support of the verdict: “The Supreme Court has allowed a lower court’s ruling on Washington state’s ‘conversion therapy’ ban to stand. This is an important victory as we fight to protect the rights and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth across the country!”
JUST IN: The Supreme Court has allowed a lower court’s ruling on Washington state’s ‘conversion therapy’ ban to stand. This is an important victory as we fight to protect the rights and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth across the country! https://t.co/sMlmMpYD9P
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) December 11, 2023
The UK government has been promising a ban since 2018
Approximately 27 US states partially or fully ban LGBTQIA+ ‘conversion therapy’ for minors, according to the Movement Advancement Project. Other countries have introduced a ban including New Zealand and Canada, however the UK does not currently have a ban in place.
A promise of a ban was recently omitted from the King’s Speech, despite previously being included in two Queen’s Speeches.
A commitment to banning it was first made by Theresa May’s administration in 2018, with the exact form the legislation will take being the subject of intense debate in the UK since then.
Boris Johnson’s government made a number of backtracks to these promises, previously resulting in fear from the LGBTQIA+ community that the legislation would not include protections for all, something that led to thousands protesting outside Downing Street.