Metro Weekly

Congressional Democrats introduce measure to ban conversion therapy

Bill would classify therapy attempting to change sexual orientation or gender identity as consumer fraud

U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif) – Photo: U.S. Congress, via Wikimedia.

Congressional Democrats have introduced a bill that would effectively ban conversion therapy by classifying it as a form of consumer fraud.

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and 68 members of Congress introduced the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act of 2017. The bill would amend the Federal Trade Commission Act to classify commercial conversion therapy and any advertising that claims that such therapy is able to change sexual orientation and gender identity as “fraud.”

Under the bill, the Federal Trade Commission would be empowered to bring charges against therapists who claim to be able to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Therapists who engage in the practice would open themselves up to being sued in civil court.

Lieu said in a statement that he was introducing the bill to ensure that no one would be forced to undergo conversion therapy.

“Conversion therapy isn’t only ineffective, it’s also dangerous,” Lieu said. “Yet, those providing it charge families thousands of dollars and suffer few consequences. It is time that we put an end to this scam and pass this legislation, sending a message that being LGBT cannot be and does not need to be cured.”

Lieu previously introduced an identical measure in 2015, but the bill never gained a hearing in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives. In 2012, as a California State Senator, Lieu authored and introduced legislation to ban the practice of conversion therapy on minors, making California the first state to do so.

Since that time, five other states, the District of Columbia, and several municipalities throughout the nation have enacted similar prohibitions. A bill banning the practice passed with bipartisan support in the Nevada State Senate earlier this month.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) has introduced the Senate version of the bill.

Proponents of conversion therapy claim that it can help people with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria fight their urges by altering their behavior. But many in the medical, mental health, and counseling fields say there’s no evidence that it actually changes people’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Richard Yep, CEO of the American Counseling Association, one of the groups that has come out against the practice of conversion therapy, said in a statement it was supportive of Lieu’s bill.

“The American Counseling Association … has concluded that conversion therapy is not only unethical, it does not work and can actually be detrimental to one’s mental health,” Yep said.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights has also endorsed the national legislation. NCLR also runs the #BornPerfect campaign, which aims to pass statewide legislation in all 50 states banning the practice of conversion therapy on minors by 2019.

“This important legislation will not only put an end to profiting from peddling fraudulent claims about sexual orientation and gender identity, it will save lives by sending a clear message to every child in the country that no matter who they are or where they live, they were born perfect,” Carolyn Reyes, youth policy counsel for NCLR, said in a statement.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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