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A case has been brought before the Supreme Court asking justices to rule on the constitutionality of a Washington state law that prohibits therapists from advising their patients against transitioning to a different gender, Fox News is reporting.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a non-profit civil rights organization, filed a petition with the Supreme Court on Monday on behalf of Brian Tingley, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Washington state. Tingley argues that the state law is unconstitutional because it prohibits private discussions between client and counselor regarding sexual orientation and gender, the outlet noted.
The group argued that the state law only allows for a one-way conversation regarding gender transitions.
“For example, it allows counseling conversations that aim to steer young people toward a transgender identity but prohibits conversations that aim to help that same person return to comfort with his or her sex,” the group noted in a filing.
“There are no legal consequences if Petitioner Brian Tingley tells his neighbor about the emerging international medical consensus to treat gender dysphoria with watchful waiting instead of affirmation,” the petition said.
“But if he discusses that same topic in the same way with a counseling client, the State of Washington can strip his license under Washington’s Counseling Censorship Law… That Law prohibits counselors from engaging in any ‘regime that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity,’ while exempting counseling that ‘support[s] … identity exploration’ without ‘seek[ing] to change sexual orientation or gender identity.’”
Attorneys from the ADF are appealing to the Supreme Court to overturn a decision by the 9th Circuit that affirmed a district court’s dismissal of Tingley’s lawsuit against the law. At the time of the 9th Circuit’s ruling, the Washington state Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, applauded the court for upholding the state’s ban on “conversion therapy,” which refers to the practice of therapists attempting to persuade individuals to identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, Fox News continued.
“Washington’s law prohibiting licensed mental health providers from practicing conversion therapy on minors is not unconstitutionally vague,” the 9th circuit ruled, though ADF says the law really just bans protected speech between patients and therapists.
“The government can’t control a counselor’s speech. Washington’s counseling censorship law violates freedom of speech and harms counselors as well as clients,” said ADF counsel John Bursch said in a statement, according to the outlet.
“Brian has counseled all types of people for more than 20 years, and those conversations are private — certainly not open for the government to censor. The government has no business dictating what personal goals a client can pursue in counseling,” Bursch said.
According to the ADF, the Washington state law poses a $5,000 fine for each violation, suspension from practicing, and, potentially, the permanent revocation of a therapist’s license.
The ADF previously litigated a comparable case in New York on behalf of Dr. Dovid Schwartz, an Orthodox Jewish psychotherapist. In 2019, he sued the city of New York, contending that a similar law prohibited certain conversations between therapist and patient, thereby violating his right to free speech. The case was ultimately won by the ADF, Fox News reported.
The New York City Council subsequently voted to repeal the statute.
In December, the Supreme Court rejected a plea to get involved in a gender-related dispute over Michigan State University’s decision to end its swimming-and-diving teams.
A lawsuit was filed by female athletes after MSU ended its men’s and women’s swimming-and-diving teams following the 2021 season. The school argued that “cost” was the reason for the move, saying its swimming and diving facilities needed upgrades that would cost millions of dollars.
“Members of the women’s team sued to say the decision violated federal anti-discrimination law, commonly known as Title IX. A judge rejected a request to keep the women’s team alive while the lawsuit proceeded, saying she doubted the female swimmers would prevail at the end of the litigation. But a three-judge federal appeals court panel later ruled 2-1 that the judge should take another look at the case,” Reuters reported.