SPLC urges support for proposed federal ban against gay conversion therapy
The SPLC urged Capitol Hill lawmakers to pass legislation that would create a nationwide ban on conversion therapy – a dangerous and discredited practice based on the false premise that homosexuality is a disorder that should be cured. The legislation was inspired by an SPLC lawsuit against a conversion therapy provider set for trial next month.
The Southern Poverty Law Center urged lawmakers on Capitol Hill today to pass legislation that would create a nationwide ban on conversion therapy – a dangerous and discredited practice based on the false premise that homosexuality is a disorder that should be cured.
The legislation was inspired by an SPLC lawsuit against a conversion therapy provider, according to the bill’s sponsor.
“Conversion therapy is fraud, plain and simple. The entire conversion therapy industry is built upon a single, central lie – that being gay or transgender is an illness or disorder that can and should be cured,” David Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director, said at a Washington news conference announcing the bill. “This is a lie, and it is a lie that conversion therapy therapists regurgitate over and over again in their attempt to sell their snake-oil treatments to vulnerable families across this country.”
U.S. Rep. Ted W. Lieu of California introduced the federal legislation today, which is known as The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act. If passed, the commercial practice and advertisement of sexual orientation conversion therapy would be a violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act. The ban is broader than laws passed by some states banning conversion therapy for minors.
Lieu cited the SPLC’s consumer fraud case against conversion therapy provider Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) as an inspiration for the bill. The 2012 lawsuit alleges JONAH used deceptive practices to lure plaintiffs into expensive, harmful services for bogus therapy to change people from gay to straight. The lawsuit goes to trial in New Jersey Superior Court June 2. It is the first case of its kind brought under the state’s consumer protection law.
Earlier this year, the judge in the case excluded several witnesses for the defense, ruling that the central lie of conversion therapy – that homosexuality can be cured – is outdated and scientifically discredited. He wrote that “the theory that homosexuality is a disorder is not novel but – like the notion that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it – instead is outdated and refuted.”
Conversion therapy has been discredited or highly criticized by virtually all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations. People who have undergone conversion therapy have reported increased anxiety, depression, and in some cases, suicidal ideation.
One survivor of the harmful therapy speaking at the press conference said the destructive practice robbed him of his identity, dreams and livelihood. He said the proposed bill could save lives, as many LGBT people have suffered and even committed suicide from conversion therapy.
The drumbeat against the harmful practice has increased in recent months, with more states Illinois and Nevada considering bans on the practice. The Oregon governor today signed into law a ban on conversion therapy for LGBT youth. In April, the Obama administration said it supported a ban on the practice. Lieu’s federal bill is co-sponsored by a slate of lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
“Being LGBT is not an illness. It does not require a cure,” Pelosi said in a statement. “So-called ‘conversion therapy’ is not medicine, it is not right, and it has no place in America. We cannot and will not allow conversion therapy peddlers to continue to profit from the abuse of LGBT children and adults.”