Two Democrats — Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Patty Murray (Wash.) — are taking the lead in the U.S. Senate on legislation seeking to ban “ex-gay” therapy nationwide by requiring the federal government to classify it as a fraudulent practice.
Booker and Murray along with 16 other Democrats introduced the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, which would classify the widely discredited practice as fraud, making it illegal under the Federal Trade Commission’s authority.
Booker, who last year introduced a resolution condemning “ex-gay” therapy, said in a statement the practice “is harmful, especially to children.”
“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,” Booker said. “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.”
Major institutions, including the American Psychological Association, have come out against therapy aimed at converting sexual orientation and gender identity on the basis that it doesn’t work and can harm the patient.
Murray said in a statement therapy aimed at converting a person’s sexual orientation “is fraud, and it has no place in our country.”
“This bill would make it abundantly clear that the FTC can take swift action to put a stop to this deceptive and damaging practice,” Murray said. “I will continue to push for ways to make sure all people, regardless of who they are or who they love, are treated equally and with respect.”
The bill is companion legislation to a bill Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) introduced last year in the U.S. House also seeking to ban “ex-gay” therapy throughout the country.
“Being lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender cannot be and does not need to be ‘cured’, and it is clearly in the best interest of our nation to protect LGBT Americans and their families from being defrauded by conversion therapists,” Lieu said. “Conversion therapy cannot change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. However, it does seriously harm those subjected to it, leading to depression, suicidal thoughts, and family rejection.”
Earlier this year, LGBT advocacy groups — the Human Rights Campaign, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights — filed a complaint with the FTC against the Virginia-based “ex-gay” group People Can Change calling on the agency on its own accord to declare conversion therapy fraud.
Carolyn Reyes, youth policy counsel for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement the legislation will complement other efforts to prohibit “ex-gay” therapy.
“We are grateful for the courageous leadership of Sens. Murray and Booker in the fight to end conversion therapy nationwide,” Reyes said. “This historic bill will protect the most vulnerable among us from exploitation by those fraudulently claiming to be able to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, save countless lives, and send a clear message to every child across this land that they were born perfect.”
President Obama supports bans on “ex-gay” therapy, but has advocated a state-by-state approach to the issue. Upon the introduction of Lieu’s bill last year, the White House said it welcomes congressional action, but stopped short of endorsing the bill.
Jeff Tiller, a White House spokesperson, said the administration is “reviewing” the legislation when asked if Obama will endorse the bill.
“The administration has strongly supported the increasing number of states taking steps to ban conversion therapy for minors because of the serious harms that can result from this practice,” Tiller said. “We appreciate Sen. Booker and Sen. Murray’s leadership on this issue and are in the process of reviewing the proposed legislation.”