The first national bill to stop what is known as “conversion therapy” was introduced in Congress on Tuesday by California Rep. Ted Lieu, a month after the White House denounced psychiatric treatments meant to “cure” young people of being gay.
The practice is a dangerous scam and abusive to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, Lieu, a Democrat, said in a statement. The therapy sessions and materials cost families thousands of dollars with no results, he said.
“The truth is that being LGBT cannot be and does not need to be cured,” he said. “The irony of the conversion therapy industry is that the same people who are telling LGBT kids that they’re diseased are the same ones conveniently offering a high-priced, high-risk, ineffective cure.”
The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act would amend the Federal Trade Commission Act to classify paid therapy that claims to change sexual orientation and gender identify as fraud. The bill provides protection for religious liberty and freedom of speech, Lieu said.
Lieu wrote the first statewide ban on conversion therapy three years ago in California.
The federal bill comes two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld New Jersey’s ban on gay conversion therapy for those under 18. Last year, the justices left California’s ban in place.
Oregon's governor signed a similar ban on Tuesday and the District of Columbia also has one.
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Therapy proponents presented the ban as a restriction on the free speech rights of doctors and counselors.
The White House formally supported ending conversion therapy after receiving a petition signed by more than 120,000 people. It followed the death of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn of Union Township, Ohio, who committed suicide in late December by walking in front of a semi-trailer. Alcorn left a note on Tumblr blaming her parents for forcing her to attend conversion therapy.
In response to Lieu’s bill, the government affairs director of the Human Rights Campaign called conversion therapy a demeaning and destructive practice.
“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,” David Stacy said in a statement.
The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality as a mental disorder from its official diagnostic manual more than 40 years ago.