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Challenge to Washington's law banning conversion therapy rejected in court

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said it's a "win for LGBTQ+ civil rights."
Credit: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
A person walks near the Legislative Building, Wednesday, April 21, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia, Washington.

TACOMA, Wash. — A federal judge in Tacoma rejected an effort to block Washington state's law banning conversion therapy on minors Monday.

The measure was signed into law in 2018 and bans licensed therapists from trying to change a minor's sexual orientation. It was challenged by a licensed marriage and family therapist. 

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said it's a "win for LGBTQ+ civil rights."

"The research is clear - conversion therapy does not work, and can be particularly harmful to minors," a statement from Ferguson reads, pointing out the legislation was bipartisan. "I'm proud of my legal team for defending this important law."

The law deems it "unprofessional conduct" for a licensed health care provider to perform conversion therapy on a patient under the age of 18.

At least 20 states plus the District of Columbia have laws or regulations banning conversion therapy for LGBT minors.

Under the law, if the provider violates the law, they face sanctions ranging from fines to license revocation or suspension. 

Roger Brooks, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom and the attorney that argued the case, released this statement on behalf of the plaintiffs, noting they plan to appeal the decision:

“All Americans, secular or religious, deserve the right to private conversations, free from government censorship. The state of Washington doesn’t get to ban speech it dislikes; that’s not what free speech means. Washington’s counseling censorship law targets people of faith and threatens to stand between [the plaintiff's] clients and the personal counseling goals they choose to pursue with his help. As the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recognized just last year in the Otto v. Boca Raton decision, laws like this Washington State law violate the First Amendment rights that all Americans rightly treasure. We will appeal this decision and continue to defend the freedom of all Americans to peacefully live, work, and speak according to their deeply held beliefs without fear of punishment.”