Supreme Court Considers Reversing the Controversial LGBTQ+ Conversion Therapy Ban

The Supreme Court has been tasked with reviewing the existing bans on LGBTQ+ conversion therapy. Community members are worried about what this means for LGBTQ+ rights. Are queer youth in danger of being abused by these kinds of therapies?

Religious Counselor Argues Freedom of Speech

Citing conflicts with his rights to religious freedom and free speech, a Washington-based family counselor insists the Supreme Court should overturn the ban on conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ minors. 

Brian Tingley has retained Alliance Defending Freedom to represent him. The group’s stated objective is to defend the religious rights of Americans. They have previously represented other business owners who say their rights are violated if they’re required to serve LGBTQ+ customers.

Safety Concerns vs the First Amendment

Despite studies showing that conversion therapy is a dangerous, abusive, and ineffective practice, Tingley and others like him believe that it is their right to prescribe therapies that align with their religious beliefs. 

What Is Conversion Therapy?

Conversion therapy is an idea used by religious groups that claim to convert gay and trans people to make them straight and cisgender. These therapies can include extreme tactics like shock therapy and medications with unfortunate side effects. 

In some documented cases, a practice known as “corrective rape” has been used to try to force gay people to be straight. Victims often speak of the traumatizing nature of such “therapies.” No major medical or psychological organization supports conversion therapy.

Increasing Suicide Risks

In 2022, 28% of youth who had been subjected to conversion therapy attempted suicide. This is compared to an overall 11% rate in LGBTQ+ youth who did not receive conversion therapy.

About half of the states in the U.S. ban the practice for minors, while it remains legal in the other half of the country. 

History of the Case

In April, Mr. Tingley first brought his case to a Tacoma, Washington, federal district court. The case was dismissed at that time as the court deferred to a California case, Pickup v. Brown, that dealt with a very similar issue in 2014. Mr. Tingley appealed this decision, but the district court declined to reverse it.

Brian Tingley’s request of the Supreme Court is for them to reverse the decision made in Pickup v. Brown, effectively rendering the precedent irrelevant and making room for conversion therapy to be allowed once again in the state of Washington. 

Looking to Precedents for Guidance

Conservative religious business owners have recently had success in fighting against inclusion. The Colorado baker case in 2018 saw a victory go to a baker who wanted to refuse to bake wedding cakes for same-sex couples on the basis of his religion. 

In 2022, a web designer named Lorie Smith (also a client of Alliance Defending Freedom) won her case, wherein she wanted the right to refuse to create wedding websites for gay couples.

What Do Experts Say?

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology (AACAP) does not support conversion therapy, stating there is no evidence that homosexuality is pathological and there is no reason to attempt to “cure” it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) maintains that the practice is “inappropriate,” “unsuccessful,” and “outside the mainstream of traditional medical practice.”

The Survivors Behind Conversion Therapy

Victims of conversion therapy have been clear about the long-term effects of the practice. Overwhelmingly, the victims describe feelings of guilt and shame around their sexualities, brought on intentionally by conversion programs. Rife with suicide attempts and self-harm, the victims’ stories are grim.

Up to one in three LGBTQ+ people have undergone some form of conversion therapy. This number correlates to the staggeringly high rate of suicide attempts among queer youth. 

A Pending Decision

If the Supreme Court sides with Mr. Tingley, it could mean the ban on conversion therapy for minors in Washington state may be overturned. If that happens, it would set a precedent for other states to follow suit.

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