A federal judge has dismissed the lawsuit from a counselor who sued the state of Washington over its law which restricts free speech and bans counseling for minors struggling with same-sex attraction and gender identity issues.
Brian Tingley has practiced as a Marriage and Family Therapist in Washington for 20 years. He works with couples, individual adults, families, and teenagers and has found great satisfaction in helping his clients improve their relationships and personal lives.
In an interview, he told The Daily Citizen that he helps his clients face a wide variety of difficult issues, and he does that by providing a safe space for them to talk, and to work towards goals that they set for themselves.
However, a law enacted by the state of Washington in 2018, S.B. 5722, makes it illegal for a counselor or therapist to provide what it calls “conversion therapy” to minors dealing with same-sex attraction or issues with their gender identity.
“The government is trying to censor me in my counseling and in my practice,” Tingley said. “Government does not belong in a counselor’s office. This law violates freedom of speech in a private setting, which is my counseling office.”
He added that so-called “conversion therapy” is not a well-defined term, and what he provides for his clients is talk therapy.
“I listen to them, whatever they are struggling with. I hear them out and help them with their struggles and through the challenges and help them achieve the goals that they set for themselves,” Tingley said.
Roger Brooks, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, is representing Tingley in his case. He told The Daily Citizen that the media often lumps harmful practices like electroshock therapy into the broad umbrella term of “conversion therapy.”
“What he does is simply talk with clients. He listens to them. It’s what we call conversational therapy,” Brooks said regarding Tingley’s work. He added that the law prohibits any sort of counseling that aims to help a client live in conformity with their biological sex.
“This really is a law that is trying to shut down any sort of help for clients if it’s headed towards a goal that doesn’t fit today’s ideological agenda of the Washington legislature,” Brooks said.
On May 13, 2021, Tingley filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington asking the court for relief from the law and arguing that S.B. 5722 is unconstitutional because “our Constitution does not permit government to impose any orthodoxy in thought, belief, or speech.”
But on August 30, just three days after oral arguments were held in the case, Judge Robert Bryan issued an opinion dismissing Tingley’s case.
Brooks said that they will appeal the ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“We are optimistic that at either the Ninth Circuit, or the Supreme Court, Mr. Tingley’s free speech rights and those of his clients will be vindicated,” Brooks said.
Last year, in a similar lawsuit from two licensed marriage and family therapists who sued over their city’s respective ordinances which banned talk therapy, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that such bans are unconstitutional.
“People have intense moral, religious, and spiritual views about these matters—on all sides. And that is exactly why the First Amendment does not allow communities to determine how their neighbors may be counseled about matters of sexual orientation or gender,” Judge Britt Grant wrote in the decision.
However, two other circuit courts, the Third Circuit and the Ninth Circuit, have issued rulings upholding these kinds of laws.
This creates a circuit split, which greatly increases the likelihood that eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide to step in and take up a case to resolve the matter.
Until then, please pray for Brian and all the clients who he is no longer able to help because of Washington’s law.
The case is Tingley v. Ferguson.
In Victory for Free Speech, Court Strikes Down Bans on Counseling for LGBT Individuals
Photo Courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom.