Democrats in Congress have reintroduced a proposal to ban the harmful, anti-LGBTQ practice of “conversion therapy” as Republicans are ramping up legislative and ideological attacks on LGBTQ people across the country.
The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, introduced by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-California) and Senators Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Patty Murray (D-Washington), would ban conversion therapy nationwide, following the recommendations of a large swath of health and education experts and health associations who have long recognized that the practice is unscientific and extremely harmful to LGBTQ people.
The bill would make it illegal for anyone to practice or promote conversion therapy. Twenty-two states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. have enacted regulations to protect minors from being subject to the practice, while more than 90 cities and counties have taken similar actions.
“Conversion therapy is a harmful sham that hurts LGBTQIA+ youth and turns a profit for scammers posing as mental health professionals,” Lieu said in a statement. “Numerous major medical organizations have concluded that the practice has no validity and is based entirely on fake science.”
Murray emphasized that a federal ban is long overdue.
“It is long past time we ban ‘conversion therapy’ nationwide — and I won’t stop pushing alongside my colleagues until we do just that,” she said. “So-called conversion therapy is just plain wrong — it’s based on the hateful idea that being part of the LGBTQ community requires treatment and has been thoroughly debunked by medical experts.”
The bill has over 90 cosponsors, with 62 cosponsors in the House and 43 cosponsors in the Senate. Cosponsors include prominent progressives like Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) and Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts). Murray and Booker have previously introduced bans on conversion therapy at least four times, according to a press release on the legislation.
Conversion therapy is a practice of attempting to force an individual to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. Often promoted by right-wing groups, such treatment has known links to suicidal ideation, depression and substance misuse, increasing health risks in a community already more susceptible to social isolation and abuse that increases suicide risk. Survivors of conversion therapy say that it causes lifelong trauma.
This affects a significant proportion of LGBTQ people, especially young children. According to a survey by The Trevor Project, 11 percent of LGBTQ youth were threatened with conversion therapy, while 6 percent were subjected to it. Of the people subjected to the practice, 28 percent said they had attempted to die by suicide over the past year, with 27 percent of those threatened with the practice saying the same.
Medical professionals and LGBTQ advocates have expressed support for the bill, which has been sponsored by several organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, The Trevor Project, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“LGBTQ young people deserve to live authentically as who they are and be protected from the dangerous and discredited practices of ‘conversion therapy,’” said Kasey Suffredini, vice president of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project. “We applaud the reintroduction of the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, which will help protect LGBTQ young people across the country from being subjected to these harmful practices and sends them a message that they are valued, seen, and celebrated for exactly who they are.”
The bill introduction, coming at the end of Pride month, comes after Democrats introduced another bill aimed at providing protections for LGBTQ people.
Last week, Rep. Mark Takano (D-California) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) reintroduced the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act to specify that LGBTQ people are protected against discrimination in areas like employment, housing, and more. The bill would codify protections granted under the landmark 2020 Supreme Court ruling Bostock v. Clayton County.
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