First Federal Bill to Prevent Dangerous Anti-LGBT Conversion Therapy Introduced in Congress

by Stephen Peters

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-CA) will introduce the “Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act” – the first federal legislation to prohibit the practice of providing “conversion therapy” to any person in exchange for monetary compensation or advertising such services. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, called for Congress to rally behind the important legislation in order to end this dangerous and discredited practice of discrimination against LGBT people.

“This vitally important legislation has the potential to save countless lives across this country by helping to end a practice that uses fear and shame to tell LGBT people the only way to find love or acceptance is to change the very nature of who they are,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “We’re proud to work alongside Congressman Lieu and our partners to send a different message - a message of hope, acceptance, and love where such a demeaning and destructive practice isn’t promoted as useful therapy. Ending this harmful profit-making practice is something that all of Congress should be able to rally behind.”

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. This legislation would give the Federal Trade Commission the duty to enforce this provision in accordance with existing law. 

Conversion therapy, often referred to as “sexual orientation change efforts” or “reparative therapy” are practices, sometime performed by licensed mental health providers, which seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. These practices are based on the false premise that being LGBT is a mental illness that needs to be cured, a theory which has been rejected by every major mental health organization for decades. 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 conversion therapy poses devastating health risks for LGBT 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.

HRC and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) have partnered with state equality groups across the nation to pass state legislation to end this dangerous practice, including laws passed in California, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, and most recently in Oregon, to protect young people from these harmful practices by restricting the ability of licensed practitioners to conduct conversion therapy on minors. In February of 2015, a NJ Superior Court judge ruled that misrepresenting homosexuality as a disorder violates the state’s consumer protection laws. Last month, in response to a petition, the White House also weighed in, saying “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”

In August of 2013, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California’s law, which was signed by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown in 2012. On Monday May 4, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to uphold New Jersey’s law, which was signed by Republican Governor Chris Christie in August of 2013. NCLR attorneys have assisted in the defense of every state bill to date. Unlike these state laws protecting LGBT youth, the federal Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act would prohibit conversion therapy in exchange for monetary compensation for all ages.

HRC is committed to working with Congressman Lieu, NCLR, and the Southern Poverty Law (SPLC) to pass this important legislation into law.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.


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