Legislation to End “Conversion Therapy” Introduced on Capitol Hill

Jordan Dashow

Yesterday, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, the first federal legislation to prohibit the dangerous and fraudulent practice of ​“conversion therapy” by ​expressly ​classifying it as ​a violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) introduced the bill in the House last year.

HRC President Chad Griffin applauded Senators Murray and Booker for their leadership on this issue.

“The practice of so-called “conversion therapy” has been widely discredited by medical professionals, and evidence shows that it not only doesn't work but also can have life-threatening consequences. It is nothing short of child abuse,” Griffin said in a press release. “It is past time this quackery is banned from coast to coast, and we applaud Senators Patty Murray and Cory Booker for legislation that gets us one step closer to that day.”

The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act would amend the Federal Trade Commission Act to clarify that providing “conversion therapy” to any person in exchange for monetary compensation or advertising such services is an unfair or deceptive act or practice. While the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) already has the authority to investigate these deceptive practices, this legislation would explicitly clarify that the FTC has the duty to enforce this provision in accordance with existing law.

“Conversion therapy,” sometimes referred to as “sexual orientation change efforts” or “reparative therapy,” is a range of practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. These practices are based on the false premise that being LGBTQ is a mental illness that needs to be cured, a theory that has been rejected by every major medical and mental health organization for decades.

Senators Murray and Booker have long been champions in the effort to end “conversion therapy.” Earlier this year, Senators Murray and Booker, along with Representatives Jackie Speier and Ted Lieu, sent a letter to the Chairwoman of the FTC, urging the FTC to “take all actions possible to stop the unfair, deceptive, and fraudulent practice of conversion therapy.”

HRC along with National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the Southern Poverty Law Center, filed a historic consumer fraud complaint with the FTC against People Can Change, a major provider of conversion therapy. The complaint asks the FTC to stop People Can Change’s deceptive advertisements and business practices, which expressly and implicitly claim that they can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and investigate all practitioners making similar claims.

HRC and NCLR have partnered with state equality groups across the nation to pass state legislation to protect young people from these harmful practices. To date, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington, D.C. have enacted laws that protect LGBTQ youth from “conversion therapy” and more than 20 states introduced similar legislation this year. Following an executive action from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, New York is also adopting regulations to protect youth from “conversion therapy.”

This week, the Vermont legislature passed a bill that will protect LGBTQ youth from “conversion therapy,” which Governor Peter Shumlin is expected to sign it into law.

There is no credible evidence that “conversion therapy” can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. To the contrary, research has clearly shown that these practices pose devastating health risks for LGBTQ young people. Use of these dangerous practices lead to depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, homelessness, and even suicidal behavior, which is why they are universally criticized by the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and American Medical Association.

More information on the lies and dangers of efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity can be found here.

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