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U.S. Supreme Court rejects an appeal over conversion therapy bans for minors

George Hodan
Public Domain Pictures

The court turned away an appeal from Washington, where the law has been upheld. An appellate panel had struck down local bans in Florida, and the high court often steps in when appellate courts disagree.

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to take up a case about whether state and local governments can enforce laws banning conversion therapy for children.

Over the dissent of three conservative justices, the court turned away an appeal from Washington, where the law has been upheld. An appellate panel struck down local bans in Florida as an unconstitutional restriction on counselors' speech.

The high court often steps in when appellate courts disagree, and in separate opinions Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas said that standard was easily met in the controversy over conversion therapy bans.

Thomas wrote that his colleague should have taken up the Washington case because “licensed counselors cannot voice anything other than the state-approved opinion on minors with gender dysphoria without facing punishment.”

Justice Brett Kavanaugh also voted to hear the case. It takes four of the nine justices to set a case for arguments.

About half the states prohibit the practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity through counseling.

A family counselor in Washington, Brian Tingley, sued over a 2018 state law that threatens therapists who engage in conversion therapy with a loss of their license. Tingley claims the law violates his speech rights. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld it in a split decision.

The Supreme Court had previously turned away several challenges to state bans, but those cases reached the court before a 5-4 decision in 2018 in which the justices ruled that California could not force state-licensed anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers to provide information about abortion.

Since the 2018 ruling, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has voided the local Florida bans.

Nursing home exec's appeal rejected by court

The Supreme Court also refused to take up an appeal by a South Florida nursing home operator whose 20-year prison sentence was commuted by former President Donald Trump after being convicted in what prosecutors called a “massive health care fraud scheme.”

The court rejected a petition by attorneys for Philip Esformes, who was found guilty in 2019 on 20 counts related to kickbacks, money laundering, obstruction of justice and conspiracy, according to court documents.

In December 2020, Trump commuted Esformes’ prison sentence but left the conviction and other parts of the sentence intact.

Information from News Service of Florida was used in this report.