Therapist Must Stop 'Ex-Gay' Conversion Therapy After Losing Lawsuit to Overturn Ban

A Christian therapist in Washington state must cease offering "conversion therapy" after losing his lawsuit to overturn the statewide ban on its use with minors.

Brian Tingley has been offering underage clients "conversion therapy" as part of mental health treatments for years. This controversial practice of using so-called therapeutic methods to try to change a person's sexuality or gender identity to align with strict heterosexual and cisgender ideals of Christianity was successfully banned for use with minors in Washington by lawmakers in 2018.

Tingley, however, filed a federal lawsuit in May, claiming the ban violates his free speech right, as well as religiously discriminates against him as a Christian.

"The prohibited conduct at issue here, performing conversion therapy, is analogous to a doctor giving a prescription for marijuana because it involves engaging in a specific act designed to provide treatment," Judge Robert J. Ryan wrote when he dismissed the lawsuit earlier this week. He added that while mental health professionals are still free to state their opinions freely, they are not allowed to say those opinions are a form of official treatment.

Bryan also pointed to his decision that Tingley had not been discriminated against based on religion, saying all therapists must work toward Washington's stated goal to "protect the physical and psychological well-being of minors, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth by protecting minors against exposure to serious harms caused by conversion therapy."

"Today we won an important victory for LGBTQ+ civil rights," Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson wrote in a statement obtained by Newsweek. "A federal court in Tacoma rejected the legal challenge to our state law banning conversion therapy on minors. The research is clear—conversion therapy does not work, and can be particularly harmful to minors."

Tingley made the argument that he was providing youths with a service they have requested, saying, "For a minor client of faith who seeks the assistance of a counselor who shares his faith, to help him align his thoughts and his conduct with the teachings of his faith, the Law again says 'No,' denying that young person professional help towards his goal."

However, his argument did not seem to address the issue that minors are routinely pressured into conversion therapy by their churches and families against their will, and without the benefit of a balanced education about sexuality. Additionally, in recent months and years, more and more proponents of conversion therapy and "ex-gays" have admitted their "therapy" did not actually change their sexuality or gender.

A study published by the Trevor Project found that "LGBTQ youth who underwent conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide and more than 2.5 times as likely to report multiple suicide attempts in the past year."

At least 21 states currently ban the use of conversion therapy with minors.

Newsweek reached out to The Pride Foundation in Seattle for comment.

Pride flag
A Christian therapist in Washington state must cease offering "conversion therapy" after losing his lawsuit to overturn the statewide ban on its use with minors. A stock image of a pride flag. Zakharova Elena/Getty