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Federal lawsuit filed over Washington State conversion therapy ban

Most medical and psychological professional associations strongly oppose “conversion therapy” as illegitimate

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U.S. District Court of the Western District of Washington at Tacoma (Photo Credit: GSA U.S. Government)

TACOMA, WA. – In a lawsuit filed last Thursday in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Washington, a family therapist is claiming that a law banning the practice of applying conversion therapy techniques on minors and signed by Democratic Governor Jay Inslee in 2018 is a violation of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

Brian Tingley, who is represented by the Scottsdale, Arizona-based anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom, (ADF), identifies himself as a “Christian licensed marriage and family therapist”  and alleges in the court filings that the provided definition of “conversion therapy” is “vague, content-biased, and biased against one perspective or point of view.”

The law defines the practice as; “Conversion therapy” means a regime that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The term includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex. The term includes, but is not limited to, practices commonly referred to as “reparative therapy.”

The law however did provide that; “Conversion therapy” does not include counseling or psychotherapies that provide acceptance, support, and understanding of clients or the facilitation of clients’ coping, social support, and identity exploration and development that do not seek to change sexual orientation or gender identity.”

It also stipulates that “conversion therapy” does not apply to “religious practices or counseling under the auspices of a religious denomination, church, or organization that do not constitute the performance of conversion therapy by licensed health care providers on clients under age eighteen.”

That proviso according to ADF attorneys representing Tingley is a “sham exemption” because the exemption does not apply to practicing Christian counselors like the plaintiff who wish to “help fellow Christians who seek his assistance to live consistently with the teachings of their shared faith.”

“Over the years, Plaintiff Tingley has had multiple clients, including minor clients, who experienced unwanted same-sex attraction and desired Mr. Tingley’s help in reducing those attractions so they could enter into heterosexual romantic relationships and the family lives which they longed for, and also so they could live in a manner consistent with the moral teachings of their Christian faith,” the lawsuit reads

“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, ” the suit maintains.

ADF alleges that the law deprives their client of his “right to practice his religious beliefs by speaking to clients on topics of gender identity and sexual attractions and change in a manner consistent with the teachings of his faith and that of his clients.” 

Referring to the law as the “Counseling Censorship Law,” ADF attorneys in the suit say that their client “is not able to freely and without fear speak what he believes to be true, and his client is therefore denied the right to receive open and uninhibited thoughts from his or her chosen counselor.”

ADF also contends that“ […] arguments based on the immutability of sexual orientation are unscientific, given that scientific research does not indicate that sexual orientation is uniformly biologically determined at birth or that patterns of same-sex and other-sex attractions remain fixed over the life course.” 

In November of 2020, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision voided a pair of local ordinances that were passed by the city of Boca Raton, Florida and surrounding Palm Beach County that prohibited therapists from offering so-called conversion therapy to minors struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In its ruling the court held that the bans were unconstitutional violating First Amendment rights on content-cased speech and religious freedoms.

That suit had been brought by two therapists that the ordinances targeted prohibiting them as well as other licensed counselors from performing gay conversion therapy on minors. They were represented by vehemently anti-LGBTQ Mat Staver, founder of Orlando-based Liberty Counsel, a law firm that seeks out legislation or regulatory mandates which uphold LGBTQ rights and challenges them in courts across the United States to overturn them.

Leading mental health professional organizations, the American Pediatrics and American Psychiatric Associations are opposed to what both have termed “the damaging effects of conversion therapy.” 

“There is no evidence that it is helpful and plenty of evidence that it is psychologically harmful to participants.  The practice must be banned in order to protect the mental and emotional well being of both children and adults,” a spokesperson for the American Pediatrics Association told the Blade. “It can be reasonably argued that members of the LGBTQ community experience suicide and assault at greater rates than the general population, in part, due to the continued authorization of conversion therapy.”

“The archaic idea that mental health providers can or should change someone’s gender expression or gender identity or their sexual orientation is based on a history of stigmatization and subjective, restrictive sexual identities. It increases the risk of suicide of our LGBTQ children from trauma via conversion therapy,” Dr. Katya Dobrynin told the Blade.

The Eleventh Circuit decision creates a split among circuit courts on the constitutionality of bans on conversion therapy. The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have previously upheld these bans as constitutional.

The Williams Institute estimates that 698,000 LGBT adults in the U.S. have received “conversion therapy,” 350,000 of whom suffered the experience as adolescents. Most medical and psychological professional associations strongly oppose “conversion therapy” as illegitimate. 

The American Psychological Association has opposed the practice since 1998, arguing that there is “no credible evidence” such procedures proffered by adherents of the so-called therapy could change sexual orientation.

Conversion therapy has been banned in 20 states and more than 70 municipalities across the United States. California was first to do so in 2012.

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Washington

Trans 7th grader assaulted in Spokane, Washington by another student

The boy’s mother told KREM CBS2 News that she believes that her son’s gender identity played a major role in the incident

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13 year-old Spokane 7th grader Ian Ring via CBS-affiliate KREM 2 News

SPOKANE, Wa. – A disturbing SnapChat video of a 13 year-old Trans male student at Dr. Jonas E. Salk Middle School in Spokane being pummeled by another student this past week is under investigation by the Spokane Police department.

Sitting beside his mother, Ian Ring told CBS-affiliate KREM 2 News Wednesday, “I turned around, he pushed me and then I pushed him back. And he got closer, and he punched me. And then he continued from there, then I had taken his glasses off him to try and get him away.”

Ring’s mother told the station that she believes that her son’s gender identity played a major role in the incident; “The conversation that we have always had about these kind of issues is to walk away, not make yourself a target, you know, especially when you’re alone and not with family,” Ring said. “He’s gone to the mall a few times and was wearing sweaters that are promoting identity and you need to be very careful, like this is an issue and if your family’s not there to protect you can’t just be yourself without worrying about even adults, you know, coming after you.”

Video of the incident, broadcast by KREM CBS 2 News, shows the attack with other students standing around laughing and no one stepping forward to intervene. According to Ring the incident took place after school as students were waiting on busses to take them home.

A spokesperson for the Spokane Police Department told the Blade that a student has been charged with fourth degree assault although no one is in custody and the incident is under active investigation. The police department is barred from releasing names of minors involved in incidents being investigated.

A statement released by Spoke Public Schools reads: “SPS takes any incident involving student conflict very seriously. We are investigating what has occurred and will work to partner with all parties involved.”

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Vancouver Trans teen’s murderer will spend next 19 1/2 years in prison

Judge David Gregerson became emotional when reading his statement about the case pointing to challenges the victim faced as a trans teen

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Nikki Kuhnhausen, undated family photo via the Vancouver, Washington Police Department

VANCOUVER, Wa. – The 27-year-old man convicted by a Clark County, Washington jury last month in the murder of Nikki Kuhnhausen, a 17-year-old female trans teenager who went missing in 2019, was sentenced last Thursday to the maximum sentence of 19½ years in prison.

David Bogdanov, who showed no reaction as his sentence was handed down by the judge, was convicted on one count of second-degree murder along with an additional count of malicious harassment, which is a hate crime in the state of Washington.

Speaking to the media after the sentencing surrounded by family members and supporters, Lisa Woods, the mother of Kuhnhausen said; “I feel so blessed and I am so grateful,” and then added: “She was just a baby, she was just a teenager and he took her life, you know. He got the maximum and that’s what he deserved.”

Clark County Superior Court Judge David Gregerson became emotional when reading his statement about the case and trial, pointing to Kuhnhausen’s identity and the challenges she had faced as a trans female teen.

“That identity ended in a particularly cruel spasm of violence on June 6, 2019, and it was followed by the most undignified form of final disposition of her body, then by repeated lies and obfuscation,” Gregerson said.

Detectives David Jensen and Jason Mills of the Vancouver Police Department testified in court that they had examined Kuhnhausen’s Snapchat account which led them to identify Bogdanov as a person of interest in her disappearance, the Columbian newspaper reported. A search warrant for Bogdanov’s Snapchat account corroborated that the two had met and that he gave her a ride in his car.

After Kuhnhausen’s murder Bogdanov dumped her body down the hillside of Larch Mountain, booked a one-way flight to Ukraine and called a friend to “get rid” of his car, according to trial testimony. He returned to the U.S. about six weeks later, the Columbian also reported.

Outrage over the murder had led to the State of Washington enacting a law to prevent a “gay panic defense.” In March of 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee signed the Nikki Kuhnhausen Act, House Bill 1687, making Washington the 10th state to enact such a ban.

“The bill brings us closer to telling the LGBT community they are valued in Washington and closer to honoring Nikki and the positive stride she made on behalf of the trans community,” Inslee said at the time of his signing the legislation.

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Washington

Man convicted of murder plus hate crime in death of Vancouver Trans teen

Outrage over the murder had led to the State of Washington enacting a law to prevent a “gay panic defense.”

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KOMO ABC News 4 Seattle, screenshot of Nikki Kuhnhausen (Family photos via Vancouver PD)

VANCOUVER, Wa. – Jurors hearing the case against 27-year-old David Bogdanov, accused of killing a 17-year-old Trans female in 2019, convicted him on one count of second-degree murder along with an additional count of malicious harassment, which is a hate crime in the state of Washington last week.

The skull and scattered remains of Nikki Kuhnhausen had been found in the Larch Mountain area of eastern Clark County in December 2019, six months after she had been reported missing by her mother Lisa Woods.

Detectives David Jensen and Jason Mills of the Vancouver Police Department testified in court that they had examined Kuhnhausen’s Snapchat account which led them to identify Bogdanov as a person of interest in her disappearance, the Columbian newspaper reported. A search warrant for Bogdanov’s Snapchat account corroborated that the two had met and that he gave her a ride in his car.

Bogdanov, who was the only person to testify in his defense, claimed that he killed Kuhnhausen in self-defense. On the stand, Bogdanov said that during his sexual encounter with Kuhnhausen in June of 2019, he discovered she was transgender, Portland, Oregon’s NBC affiliate KGW8 reported.

He testified that when he tried to get her out of his car, Kuhnhausen reached for his gun, and that he had no choice but to subdue her. He argued he strangled Kuhnhausen with the cord of a cellphone charger nearby in self defense as he tried to keep her away.

In his court testimony, Bogdanov and his lawyers argued that the self defense claim stemmed from his attempt to prevent his family from discovering that he had sexual contact with someone who was born male. The defense included Bogdanov testifying that he would’ve been shunned if his family found out. The probable cause for his arrest warrant included the notation; [he]”became enraged at the realization that he had engaged in sexual contact with a male whom he believed to be female and strangled Nikki to death.”

After Kuhnhausen’s murder Bogdanov dumped her body down the hillside of Larch Mountain, booked a one-way flight to Ukraine and called a friend to “get rid” of his car, according to trial testimony. He returned to the U.S. about six weeks later, the Columbian also reported.

Outrage over the murder had led to the State of Washington enacting a law to prevent a “gay panic defense.” In March of 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee signed the Nikki Kuhnhausen Act, House Bill 1687, making Washington the 10th state to enact such a ban.

“The bill brings us closer to telling the LGBT community they are valued in Washington and closer to honoring Nikki and the positive stride she made on behalf of the trans community,” Inslee said at the time of his signing the legislation.

David Bogdanov’s sentencing is set for Sept. 9, 2021 in Clark County, Washington Superior Court.

Man found guilty in murder of Nikki Kuhnhausen; Vancouver teen’s death inspired new law.

The Nikki Kuhnhausen Act eliminates the “gay panic” or “trans panic” legal defense. The Clark County prosecutor said this case and verdict show trans people are entitled to equal protection under the law. Ashley Korslien joined The Story to explain:

 

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