NATIONWIDE — A Los Angeles-based member of Congress and two senators have introduced a bill that would ban LGBTQ “conversion therapy,” a controversial practice discredited by medical associations, nationwide.
The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act of 2021 was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, and in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Patty Murray, D-Washington, and Cory Booker, D-New Jersey.
“Conversion therapy is a harmful, fraudulent practice based on prejudice and fake science. People should be free to express their gender identity or sexual orientation, and should never be pressured into thinking they need to ‘cure’ who they are,” Lieu said in a statement released by his office. “Conversion therapy inflicts immense harm on those subjected to it, and turns a profit for scammers posing as mental health professionals.”
Conversion therapy is the practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, often based on the assumption that non-straight sexual identities are mental disorders. The proposed law would ban for-profit conversion therapy across the country.
“This idea of ‘conversion therapy’ is simply abhorrent and has no place in our society,” Booker said. “It has continuously been discredited and proven to be a harmful practice that has been rejected by countless medical and mental health organizations for years.”
According to a 2019 policy paper by UCLA’s Williams Institute, which studies sexual orientation and gender law and public policy, nearly 700,000 LGBTQ adults in the U.S. have received conversion therapy.
The Williams Institute also reports that multiple national professional health associations, including the American Medical Association, find conversion therapy to be “harmful and ineffective,” and notes that national public opinion polls have found support for ending the use of conversion therapy on youth.
This is the fourth such time that Lieu has attempted to pass a bill banning conversion therapy since he joined Congress in 2015. His previous three attempts stalled at the subcommittee level.
During his time serving in the California Senate, Lieu authored SB 1172, a state-level bill that banned children younger than 18 from undergoing conversion therapy. SB 1172 was signed into law in 2013. That bill survived two 2012 lawsuits that challenged its constitutionality on the basis of free speech. One, Welch v. Brown, was appealed to the United States Supreme Court but was denied a hearing by the high court.
The laws are not finding purchase in all jurisdictions. In 2020, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of two therapists seeking a ruling against local conversion therapy bans in Boca Raton and Palm Beach County, Fla., again on the grounds of free speech.
In the majority opinion, Circuit Judge Britt Grant wrote that "people have intense moral, religious and spiritual views about these matters — on all sides. And that is exactly why the First Amendment does not allow communities to determine how their neighbors may be counseled about matters of sexual orientation or gender."
Twenty-three states have bills either banning conversion therapy to some degree or disallowing public money supporting conversion therapy.