WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a First Amendment case concerning Washington state’s prohibition on so-called “conversion therapy” for minors, i.e., therapy that seeks to guide young people struggling with gender confusion to align their feelings and desires with their God-given biological reality. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito wrote dissents.
The nation’s highest Court rejected an appeal brought by Christian marriage and family counselor Brian Tingley, who argued that Senate Bill 5722, enacted by Washington state in 2018, violated his right to freedom of speech.
The law bans therapy for minors that “seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” though it allows professional therapists to refer gender-confused young people to religious leaders or others for faith-based discussions on gender and sexuality.
The law authorizes the state to remove the licensure of therapists who use their professional positions to try to help a minor child struggling with gender confusion or homosexual inclinations to accept their biological identity and/or cultivate opposite-sex attraction.
A Christian and 20-year veteran family counselor, Tingley has argued that the Washington law violates his First Amendment rights and allows the government broad authority to censor speech.
“A private conversation is speech, not conduct. And that does not change just because one participant is a licensed counselor and the other his client,” Tingley’s attorneys wrote, according to CBS. “Otherwise, government can alchemize almost any professional’s speech into conduct that can be silenced — something the First Amendment forbids.”
Tingley previously filed a lawsuit against state officials in 2021 over the law, but the case was dismissed by a federal district court, CBS reported. Tingley appealed the decision, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit sided with the district court.
The Supreme Court also rejected hearing the case on Monday. It did not give an explanation for its denial.
The decision came in spite of the fact that conservative Justices Thomas, Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh wanted to take up the case.
In a dissent, Justice Thomas wrote that Washington state had “silenced one side of” a “fierce debate over how best to help minors with gender dysphoria” with its 2018 law and predicted that the issue raised by Tingley will come before the Supreme Court again in the future.
“Although the Court declines to take this particular case, I have no doubt that the issue it presents will come before the Court again,” Thomas wrote. “When it does, the Court should do what it should have done here: grant certiorari [agree to hear the case] to consider what the First Amendment requires.”
Thomas noted in his dissent that Tingley wishes to be able to use “talk therapy” to “assist minors who suffer from gender dysphoria but ‘want to become comfortable with their biological sex.’” Standing in opposition to Tingley’s view, Thomas pointed out, Washington state has decided that it must shield “‘minors against exposure to serious harms caused by’ counseling to change a minor’s gender identity … and, as a result, that counselors should only affirm a minor’s chosen gender identity.”
In a separate dissent, Justice Alito agreed with Thomas and said the case is one of “national importance” and that state “conversion therapy” bans “merit careful scrutiny.”
“In recent years, 20 States and the District of Columbia have adopted laws prohibiting or restricting the practice of conversion therapy,” Alito wrote. “It is beyond dispute that these laws restrict speech, and all restrictions on speech merit careful scrutiny.”
He said there hasn’t been a consistent ruling among circuit courts on the issue and argued that “the Ninth Circuit’s holding” against Tingley’s challenge relied on a “highly debatable” reading of an earlier precedent.
“For these reasons, this case easily satisfies our established criteria for granting certiorari,” Alito said.
Opponents of so-called “conversion therapy” frequently argue that the practice is “harmful” and “dangerous,” even potentially leading to “depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide.”
However, modern therapy to aid those living with gender confusion or unwanted same-sex attraction consists largely of simple counseling, the effectiveness of which is backed by studies as well as testimony from those who have benefited.
Moreover, opponents of so-called “conversion therapy” for gender-confused individuals often do not note that “affirmation” of such confusion can have serious, debilitating consequences. In addition to asserting a false reality that one’s sex can be changed, transgender surgeries and drugs have been linked to permanent physical and psychological damage, including cardiovascular diseases, loss of bone density, cancer, strokes and blood clots, infertility, and suicidality, LifeSiteNews has extensively reported. In addition, studies indicate that more than 80% of children suffering from gender dysphoria will outgrow it on their own by late adolescence without surgical or pharmaceutical interventions.