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Legislation to Protect Consumers from Fraudulent “Conversion Therapy” Reintroduced in Congress

Today, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) reintroduced the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, which would identify so-called “conversion therapy” for what it truly is–fraud.

The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act would classify the provision and advertising of conversion therapy in exchange for monetary compensation as a fraudulent practice. While the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) already has the authority to prohibit this form of consumer fraud, the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act would expressly direct the FTC to enforce its terms and protect consumers from these harmful and discredited practices.

“So-called ‘conversion therapy’ is nothing more than child abuse and those who inflict it on others must be held accountable,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “HRC thanks Senators Murray and Booker and Representative Lieu for their efforts to outlaw this dangerous and inhumane practice. Now more than ever, we must send a clear message to the LGBTQ community — and especially LGBTQ young people — that who you are is not something that needs to be fixed.”

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. These practices are based on the false premise that being LGBTQ is a mental illness that needs to be cured, a theory which has been rejected by every major medical and mental health organization for decades. There is no credible evidence that conversion therapy can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. To the contrary, research has clearly shown that conversion therapy poses dangerous health risks for LGBTQ young people, including depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide.

California, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and the District of Columbia have enacted laws or regulations that protect minors from being subjected to conversion therapy by state-licensed mental health providers. A number of municipalities have enacted similar protections that apply within city limits.

In February 2016, HRC, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a consumer fraud complaint with the FTC against People Can Change, a major provider of conversion therapy. The complaint alleges that People Can Change’s advertisements and business practices—which expressly and implicitly claim that they can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity—constitute deceptive, false, and misleading practices and can cause serious harm to consumers, all in direct violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act. The complaint asks the FTC to take enforcement action to stop these deceptive practices and investigate all practitioners making similar claims.

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