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Bill to Outlaw Conversion Therapy Introduced in Congress

Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) joined Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) to reintroduce the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act to ban so-called “conversion therapy” across the nation.

“The bill is very simple,” explained Lieu. “It says it is fraud if you treat someone for a condition that doesn’t exist and there’s no medical condition known as being gay. LGBTQ people were born perfect; there is nothing to treat them for. And by calling this what it should be, which is fraud, it would effectively shut down most of the organizations.”

The term “conversion therapy” refers to a range of abusive practices performed to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. These practices, strongly denounced by the medical and mental health community, have included, among other things, electric shock treatment and induced nausea, vomiting, or paralysis, and have inflicted serious harm on LGBTQ people—including depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide. In a 2013 survey of over 400 people who had undergone some form of conversion therapy, more than 90 percent reported that they felt they were harmed in some way by the experience, and most felt that the harm was persistent.

The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, introduced on April 25, would classify as fraud all commercial conversion therapy and any advertising that claims to change sexual orientation or gender identity. The Act would give the Federal Trade Commission the power to enforce the law, but also allow individuals to sue in court.

Seven states—California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New York, and New Mexico—and Washington, DC already have legislation or regulations banning or restricting conversion therapy. Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to California’s ban. The challenge was brought by a Christian minister from San Jose, and others, who argued that the law violated religious freedom. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had previously rejected that argument, finding that the law was constitutional and leaving the ban in place.

Advocates have also successfully banned conversion therapy at the local level. On May 3, Riviera Beach became the fifth city in Palm Beach County, Florida to ban conversion therapy for minors.

Media Resources: WPEC-CBS12 News 5/3/17; The Washington Post 5/2/17, 4/27/17; Huffington Post 5/30/13; Human Rights Campaign; Office of Congressman Ted W. Lieu