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Friday, October 14, 2022

9th Circuit Upholds Ban on Conversion Therapy for Minors in First Amendment Challenge

Debra Cassens Weiss
ABA Journal
Originally published 7 SEPT 22

Washington state’s ban on conversion therapy for minors does not violate the First or 14th Amendments, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law, which subjects licensed therapists to discipline if they practice therapy that seeks to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a person under age 18.

The appeals court said the law was intended to prevent psychological harm to LGBTQ minors subjected to conversion therapy, including depression, self-stigma and emotional distress.

The appeals court ruled against Christian marriage and family counselor Brian Tingley, who claimed the ban on conversion therapy for minors violated his free speech and free exercise rights under the First Amendment. He also claimed the Washington state law was unconstitutionally vague under the 14th Amendment.

The appeals court noted its 2014 decision, Pickup v. Brown, upheld a nearly identical law in California. Tingley had argued, however, that the U.S. Supreme Court abrogated the Pickup decision in 2018 when it ruled for anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers challenging California’s required notice on the availability of state-subsidized abortions.

The Supreme Court held the abortion-notice law was a content-based restriction that was likely unconstitutional. The case was National Institute of Family & Life Advocates v. Becerra.