Metro Weekly

Congressional bill would ban conversion therapy by declaring it a form of fraud

Bill would allow the Federal Trade Commission to pursue complaints agains therapists who practice conversion therapy

U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu – Photo: U.S. Congress.

A bill being reintroduced in Congress would effectively institute a nationwide ban on conversion therapy by declaring it to be a form of consumer fraud.

The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act of 2019, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), would amend the Federal Trade Commission Act to classify for-profit conversion therapy as a form of fraud, because it promises consumers a result that it cannot deliver.

As a result, the Federal Trade Commission would be allowed to pursue complaints filed against therapists or organizations that promote conversion therapy.

The bill would also declare therapies that purport to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity as harmful and ineffective.

“Conversion therapy is a fraudulent practice based on the prejudiced belief that someone can or should change their sexual orientation or gender identity. It inflicts immeasurable harm on those subjected to it, and turns a profit for scammers posing as mental health professionals,” Lieu said in a statement.

“When I introduced and passed the nation’s first youth conversion therapy ban as a State Senator, I never imagined the momentum we would have to change laws on conversion therapy around the country,” he added. “Now 17 other states join California in having laws on the books banning the practice. It is a credit to the survivors and advocacy groups who have worked tirelessly to change minds and legislation. Thanks to their work, 10,000 LGBTQ children have been spared from experiencing the harms of conversion therapy. Now it’s time to end this scam in all states and pass a federal ban.”

A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate by U.S. Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

“Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or gender non-conforming is not a mental illness to be cured and should never be treated as such,” Murray said in a statement. “Conversation therapy is a sham — according to medicine and common sense — and is incredibly discriminatory and harmful towards members of the LGBTQIA+ community, especially children who already face increased harassment and discrimination. While I’m proud of the example my home state of Washington modeled in banning conversion therapy years ago, we cannot rest until this despicable practice is banished to the dustbin of history across the nation.”

“This so-called therapy is harmful, especially to children,” Booker said in a statement. “Our legislation will remove any question that the FTC and State Attorneys General have the tools they need to classify conversion therapy as what it is — fraud — and ban its use. Conversion therapy is a discredited, harmful practice that has been rejected by countless medical and mental health organizations for years. It has no place in our society.”

The bill is being co-sponsored by 65 Democrats in the House of Representatives, and in the Senate by 28 other Democrats and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.).

It has been endorsed by several LGBTQ, educational, medical, and mental health organizations, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Human Rights Campaign, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the American Psychoanalytic Association.

“We commend Rep. Lieu, who for years has been at the forefront of efforts to end these barbaric practices. Conversion therapy is fraud, plain and simple,” David Dinielli, the deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in a statement. “Nobody should profit from false promises that they can change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“This bill protects individuals and families from dangerous quackery,” Harper Jean Tobin, the director of policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement. “Families who are struggling to understand what it means to be transgender, bisexual, or gay are being sold a bill of goods. Many families understandably fear that their LGBTQ youth could face increased risks and challenges. Today’s science tells us understanding and acceptance are the best medicine and can help LGBTQ youth grow up just as healthy and successful as their peers.”

“The Trevor Project hears from LGBTQ youth every single week and has found in our recent survey that those experiencing this dangerous and discredited practice are much more likely to seriously consider attempting suicide,” Sam Brinton, the head of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, said in a statement. “Laws like the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act will save young LGBTQ lives by clearly labeling the snake oil of conversion therapy for what it is.”

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