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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

Protest for Trans student viciously attacked ends with police response

Police say a male juvenile student had made comments to another student expressing a desire to aim an AR towards demonstrators

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Kalama High & Middle Schools (Photo Credit: Kalama Washington School District)

KALAMA, Wa. – Officers from the Kalama Police Department were summoned to the combined campus of Kalama High & Middle Schools due to reports that a student had made a threat of violence against a group of students assembled in front of the school peacefully demonstrating support for a trans student.

According to a spokesperson for Kalama Police in a statement released on Facebook, the schools were placed into immediate lockdown after responding law enforcement units determined that a male juvenile student had made comments to another student (not affiliated with the demonstration) expressing a desire to aim an automatic machine gun in the direction of the demonstrators.

A firearm was not seen and the suspect stated that he intended to go home.

Kalama PD was assisted and supported by the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office, Woodland Police Department, Washington State Patrol, and Cowlitz Fire District #5. Assistance was offered by a number of other local law enforcement partner agencies.

The witness was concerned enough that they reported the statements to school administrators. The suspect could not be immediately located and his whereabouts were unknown.

Through investigation, the suspect was located and contacted by law enforcement off campus. He was transported to the police department for questioning and criminal charges will be forwarded to the county prosecutor’s office.

Earlier in the month, a trans male student was assaulted in the school’s halls and subsequently treated in the hospital. According to witnesses speaking to Portland, Oregon CBS affiliate KOIN 6 News, another student repeatedly kicked the trans student, who identifies as male, with steel-toe boots.

“The student had been on the ground, begging him to stop and he just kept going,” Katrina Rick-Mertens, a sophomore told KOIN.

The assault technically happened after school hours, just as students were leaving for the day on Monday, June 6. The student has since returned to class, according to a spokesperson for the school district.

Multiple statements on social media posts of the Kalama Police Dept. along with statements made to KOIN reporters point to a hostile environment of bullying in both the high school and the middle school, particularly aimed at LGBTQ+ students.

Many parents and students are alleging that the school administrators are not taking reports of bullying seriously and that not enough proactive disciplinary measures are being implemented to stop the bullying, which in part led to Monday’s protest and walk-out by students.

In an interview with KOIN 6 News, Kalama School District Communications Manager Nick Shanmac says, the district is always limited in what it can share about discipline because of student privacy protections.

“You do have this frustration that it appears on the surface that not enough is being done,” Shanmac said. “There are a lot of emotions that we understand it can feel like that, it can feel like nothing is happening.”

In addition to transphobic actions and homophobic remarks, incidents of Nazi salutes in classrooms and locker rooms are described by students in conversations with KOIN 6 and are also prominent on social media posts on Kalama community pages.

Two of those speaking out say they’ve repeatedly told school administrators how they have been victims.

“You’d think that after so many students go to them about hate speech and going to them that we need these bullies to stop, that they would do something. We shouldn’t have to come to this point to rally together for them to listen to us,” one student said.

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Washington

Seattle Pride dumps Amazon over donations to anti-LGBTQ+ politicos

“This Pride Parade is for our community to celebrate, to remember Stonewall in 1969, to continue the fight for our rights”

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Screenshot via KING 5 NBC News Seattle

SEATTLE – The organizers and board of Seattle Pride has cut sponsorship ties with internet retail behemoth Amazon citing more than $450,000 to lawmakers who voted against the Equality Act and a demand by the Seattle-based company for naming rights to the annual LGBTQ+ Pride parade.

Seattle Pride Executive Director Krystal Marx told local media that donations to anti-LGBTQ+ Washington state politicians and the participation of anti-LGBTQ+ organizations in the company’s AmazonSmile program also factored into the decision.

Marx noted that while Amazon offered a $100,000 sponsorship buy in, which was significantly higher than past donations the company has made in previous years, there were strings attached that included a request to call the annual celebration “Seattle Pride Parade Presented by Amazon.” It felt as if Amazon was trying to buy the event and the nonprofit itself, Marx told media outlet The Seattle Times.

“It was important for us to really take a hard look at how do these values align with us,” she said. “This Pride Parade is for our community to celebrate, to remember Stonewall in 1969, to continue the fight for our rights, and we don’t feel it was possible to accept this money.”

Seattle Pride also cited $11,000 in contributions Amazon made to Washington legislators who sponsored anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-transgender bills during the 2022 session, NBC News affiliate KING-TV 5 reported.

“We simply cannot partner with any organization actively harming our community through the support of discriminatory laws and politics,” Seattle Pride said in a statement

An Amazon spokesperson told KING 5 that the company works with lawmakers on a broad array of topics that impact their business, but that did not mean they agreed with “any individual or political organization 100 percent of the time on every issue.”

“This includes legislation that discriminates or encourages discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community,” a spokesperson said.  

The company went on to cite their support for Seattle Pride and LGBTQ+ issues on a national scale. 

“Amazon has long supported Seattle Pride because we believe that the rights of LGBTQ+ people must be protected. We stand together with the LGBTQ+ community, were early and strong supporters of marriage equality, and are working at the U.S. federal and state level on legislation, including supporting passage of the Equality Act,” a spokesperson said. “We also work hard to offer an inclusive environment for employees and for five consecutive years we’ve received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Corporate Equality Index.”

Seattle Pride said organizers are also “deeply concerned” about the company’s AmazonSmile program, which allows customers to donate to charities as they shop. Seattle Pride cited an investigation revealing more than 40 anti-LGBTQ+ organizations were signed up to receive funds through the program.

Amazon said an organization’s participation in the AmazonSmile program does not mean the company endorses their views.

“It’s critical Amazon and other corporate partners of Seattle Pride – and for other Pride events nationally – do not allow their platforms to be used by organizations which are actively working against the rights of LGBTQIA+ people,” Seattle Pride said in their statement

When evaluating corporate sponsors, Marx says the group started from the top, with the companies that offered the largest donations and stood to benefit the most from exposure and involvement with the parade, she told the Seattle Times.

“Amazon has been a sponsor for the parade on and off since 2009. It has donated roughly $42,000 since then,” Marx said.

“We simply cannot partner with any organization actively harming our community through the support of discriminatory laws and politics. Making the decision to cut Amazon as a sponsor wasn’t an easy one,” Marx said, and it will affect the nonprofit’s finances.

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Seattle Pride cuts ties with Amazon, alleging company donates to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians:

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Washington

Washington State high school grapples with racism & anti-LGBTQ bias

“We are devastated that hatred & intolerance has manifested itself in our school district-this causes marginalized students to be fearful”

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Monroe High School, Monroe Washington (Photo credit: Monroe School District)

MONROE – Police and school administrators are grappling with an apparent hate crime and a rise in incidents of racism and anti-LGBTQ discrimination at Monroe High School, located about forty minutes Northeast of downtown Seattle.

The latest incident occurred last week in the school’s parking lot just before lunchtime. Mobile phone video footage circulated on Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram showed a white student repeatedly calling a Black student the ‘N’ word in a confrontation, and at one point, the white student hits the Black student in the head with a plastic water bottle.

Monroe police spokesperson, Commander Paul Ryan told media outlets that the confrontation was brief and that a student tried to deescalate it before the school resource officer stepped in.

The Everett and Snohomish County newspaper, the Daily Herald, reported that in a letter/emails sent to parents last Wednesday evening, Monroe High’s principal Brett Wille stated that the school administration is working with Monroe police on their investigation.

“It is with great sadness that I write to let you know about an incident that occurred today at Monroe High School involving racial slurs and aggression towards a Black/African American student,” Wille wrote. “This incident occurred in the parking lot during lunch time and was witnessed by a handful of other students, was video recorded, and was possibly shared on social media. It also resulted in additional police presence on campus and we are partnering with law enforcement in their investigation of this incident.”

In an open letter to the community last Friday, Superintendent of the Monroe Schools District, Dr. Justin Blasko wrote:

“I am writing to you today in response to a recent incident of racial harassment and assault of a Black student at Monroe High School. We are devastated that hatred and intolerance has manifested itself in our school district. We recognize that this incident causes our underrepresented and traditionally marginalized students and families to be fearful, angry, and to question their own sense of belonging in our school community. My heart goes out to these students and families and I commit that, as a system, we will continue to learn and grow together.”

Blasko then cited the District’s policy; “The Monroe School District will provide equal educational opportunity and treatment for all students in all aspects of the academic and activities program without discrimination based on race, religion, creed, color, national origin, age, honorably-discharged veteran or military status, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, marital status, the presence of any sensory, mental or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability.

He added, “These words are meaningless unless the reality of our environment is reflective of anti-discrimination. The incident this week demonstrates that we must continue to come together to learn, grow, and commit ourselves as a community to do better.”

However, according to the Daily Herald;

Racism has been an ongoing issue in Monroe schools. A survey conducted by the student-led Monroe Inclusion Collective found that, out of 89 respondents, over 57% had experienced racism in the district. Similar amounts reported experiencing anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination or sexism.

Those incidents were most likely to occur outside the classroom but on school grounds, as is the case with the most recent episode. And almost 82% of respondents said they did not report their experiences to school leadership. Their reasons included not trusting staff and a lack of representation among leadership.

Of those that did report racism or other discrimination, again nearly 82% said they didn’t feel safe after doing so.

Students presented the survey’s findings to the Monroe School district Board this past January.

Melanie Ryan, board president of the Monroe Equity Council, told the paper

“All of those students and their families have continually expressed ongoing issues of bullying and harassment and various types of incidences that just haven’t been adequately addressed by the district,”

“What will ultimately decide whether we progress or not is going to likely be the students themselves,” Ryan said. “The students will have a powerful ability to put pressure within this system to say we don’t accept this anymore.”

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