Supreme Court Declines to Hear Challenge to Censorship Law

The Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to a Washington law that prohibits counselors from having discussions that encourage changes to a minor’s gender identity.

“This petition asks us to consider whether Washington can censor counselors who help minors accept their biological sex,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a dissenting opinion. “Because this question has divided the Courts of Appeals and strikes at the heart of the First Amendment, I would grant review.”

“Under SB 5722, licensed counselors can speak with minors about gender dysphoria, but only if they convey the state-approved message of encouraging minors to explore their gender identities. Expressing any other message is forbidden—even if the counselor’s clients ask for help to accept their biological sex. That is viewpoint-based and content-based discrimination in its purest form.”

Justice Samuel Alito also provided a dissenting opinion, writing, “This case presents a question of national importance. In recent years, 20 States and the District of Columbia have adopted laws prohibiting or restricting the practice of conversion therapy. It is beyond dispute that these laws restrict speech, and all restrictions on speech merit careful scrutiny.”

“Brian Tingley is a licensed marriage and family counselor who helps clients with various issues, including sexuality and gender identity,” Tingley’s lawyers wrote in their petition to the Supreme Court.

“A practicing Christian, Tingley grounds human identity in God’s design rather than a person’s feelings or wishes. Many of his clients agree and seek his counsel precisely because they want to align their identity with their faith. But Washington censors Tingley from speaking with clients in that way. Its Counseling Censorship Law prohibits any conversations that might encourage ‘change [of] an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity,’ while allowing conversations that ‘support … identity exploration’ and ‘do not seek to change sexual orientation or gender identity.'”

The state of Washington also has a law that would enable minors to receive certain medical interventions, including gender-affirming care, without parental consent.

“Every child – including our trans youth – deserves to be safe at home. In a perfect world, that is the case, but unfortunately, that is not the reality,” State Senator Marko Liias (D) said. “This legislation affirms our commitment to ensuring children have a safe and stable place to go when they are not welcome at home.”  

“Washington has long been a place where members of the LGBTQ+ community are welcome and embraced,” Liias said. “As other states across the country introduce and pass legislation to take their rights away, we here in Washington are sending a clear signal: we hear you, we see you and we love you.”