The Supreme Court is facing a critical showdown about state bans on “conversion therapy,” a widely discredited practice of attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. While this practice is already banned for minors in about half of U.S. states because it’s incredibly harmful, it’s resurfaced as the court has become more conservative and open to cases involving religious freedom.
The challenge comes from Brian Tingley, a licensed family counselor in Washington state, who believes the state’s ban on the practice for those under 18 infringes on his free speech and religious rights. He argues that the law effectively censors his ability to express his views and do his job.
On the flip side, opponents of conversion therapy, which includes all legitimate psychiatric associations, argue that it’s a harmful practice that increases the risk of depression and suicide among LGBTQ+ youth. It’s important to note that Washington’s law doesn’t apply to unregulated religious groups but only to licensed therapists regulated by the state.
The Supreme Court is set to discuss the case, and we’ll know soon whether they decide to take it up or let a lower court ruling against Tingley stand. It’s worth noting that the court has typically declined similar challenges in the past, but the legal landscape has been evolving, with recent decisions strengthening First Amendment speech protections in certain contexts.
In 2018, a Supreme Court decision said that requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to provide information about publicly funded abortion or contraception services when asked violated the First Amendment rights of doctors. Tingley believes the ruling should weigh in his favor.
With the court’s increasing anti-LGBT bias coming out in religious freedom cases, it’ll be important to see how this plays out and what it might mean for the ongoing battle between LGBTQ+ rights and religious beliefs in the United States.