Appeals Court Rejects Christian Therapist’s Lawsuit Against Washington State Over ‘Conversion Therapy’ Ban

Olu Ojo
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In a pivotal move, an appeals court has firmly dismissed the appeal for a rehearing in the lawsuit brought forward by Christian therapist Brian Tingley against Washington state. Tingley’s challenge centered around the state’s prohibition of therapy for minors grappling with undesired same-sex attraction.

A Disputed Decision

Court of Appeal
Image credit: Court of Appeal

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit made the decisive vote on Monday, denying a full court rehearing for Tingley’s lawsuit. The therapist’s suit contested the Washington state law, sparking a heated debate on the grounds of First Amendment rights and the scope of speech protection.

Circuit Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, while respecting the order to deny the en banc rehearing, expressed his view that the earlier panel opinion was “erroneous.” O’Scannlain emphasized, “In sum, under binding Supreme Court precedents, conversion therapy consisting entirely of speech cannot be prohibited without some degree of First Amendment scrutiny.”

Divided Opinions

Legal Battle
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A dissenting voice in this case, Circuit Judge Patrick J. Bumatay, argued that the full court should have given due consideration to Tingley’s First Amendment arguments. Bumatay noted, “Because the speech underpinning conversion therapy is overwhelmingly—if not exclusively—religious, we should have granted Tingley’s petition for en banc review.”

Despite the dissenting opinions, the court’s decision remained steadfast, marking a significant win for proponents of the conversion therapy ban.

Advocates Celebrate

LGBTQ
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LGBTQ activist groups, including the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), who intervened in support of Washington state’s ban, hailed the decision. NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter expressed, “These are common-sense protections that unfortunately are necessary to prevent unethical therapists from defrauding parents and causing severe harm to LGBTQ youth.”

Legislative Backdrop

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In 2018, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee enacted Senate Bill 5722, effectively banning licensed therapists from conducting sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) therapy on minors. Commonly known as conversion therapy or “reparative therapy,” SOCE therapy aims to modify or eliminate same-sex sexual attraction.

Tingley, unsatisfied with the exemption provided for religious organizations, filed the lawsuit in 2021. He asserted that the law inadequately safeguarded freedom of religion and speech.

Unanimous Ruling Against Tingley

Judge
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Last September, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit unanimously ruled against Tingley. Circuit Judge Ronald M. Gould, authoring the court opinion, posited that the state retained the authority to regulate medical practices. He stated, “States do not lose the power to regulate the safety of medical treatments… merely because those treatments are implemented through speech rather than through scalpel.”

Broader Implications

Ethics and Religion
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This development underscores the ongoing tension between religious freedom, ethical standards in therapy, and LGBTQ rights. The court’s decision reaffirms the state’s ability to enforce ethical standards and prohibit practices deemed harmful, particularly for minors.

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Author

  • Olu Ojo

    My name is Olu. I am a passionate entrepreneur who loves to write about Pets, Home Improvement Hacks & Products, Fitness, and Travel Lifestyle. I have two bachelor's degrees in Veterinary Medicine and Applied Accounting with a CPA designation. I currently shuffle time between completing a Master of Business Administration Degree Education, Professional Practice, and Content writing. I have freelanced lifestyle content and posts for many top authority websites like MSN, and Wealth of Geeks.

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