(Bloomberg) -- The US Supreme Court rejected a request to overturn Washington state’s ban on the practice of trying to change an LGBTQ child’s sexual orientation or gender identity through counseling, turning away a highly politicized fight over the rights of gay and trans minors.
The justices, over three dissents, on Monday refused to review a lower court’s decision affirming a law against so-called “conversion therapy.” The high court’s decision leaves intact Washington state’s ban, as well as similar restrictions in 20 states across the country.
The case comes as the GOP increasingly attacks gender-affirming treatment for minors. The country’s top medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have concluded that conversion therapy is unnecessary and harmful to children.
Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito indicated they would have heard the case. Thomas wrote that the case “strikes at the heart of the First Amendment,” saying that under the law “licensed counselors cannot voice anything other than the state-approved opinion on minors with gender dysphoria without facing punishment.”
Alito said the issue was one of “national importance,” though he didn’t say how he would have ruled. Kavanaugh dissented without additional comment.
Brian Tingley, the Washington-based counselor, claimed the conversion therapy ban amounts to censorship. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ban, arguing the state has the power to regulate the safety of medical treatments.
Tingley, who is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal organization, earlier this year asked the Supreme Court to consider overturning the federal appeals court’s decision. “The government can’t control a counselor’s speech,” said his lawyer, ADF senior counsel John Bursch, in March.
The case would have marked the high court’s latest foray into LGBTQ rights. Last term, the justices voted 6-3 in favor of a Colorado designer who did not want to make websites promoting same-sex marriage.
The case is Tingley v. Ferguson, 22-942.
--With assistance from Greg Stohr.
(Updates with comments from Thomas, Alito in fourth and fifth paragraphs.)
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