A New Federal Bill Finally Targets ‘Fraudulent’ LGBT Conversion Therapy

A federal bill that would ban attempts to convert the sexuality and/or gender identity of LGBT people has been introduced into Congress, and the ban is framed in a way that isn’t pulling any punches.

The legislation, known as thTherapeutic Fraud Prevention Act (TFPA), would change the Federal Trade Commission Act to stipulate that taking money for conversion therapy attempts, and any advertising surrounding said attempts that see therapists purport to change someone’s gender identity or sexuality, are fraud and should be dealt with as such.

The legislation seems designed to echo the summary judgement that was issued earlier this year in a case (that is still awaiting a full trial) where Plaintiffs Benjamin Unger and Chaim Levin, who are survivors of ex-gay therapy, have sued Jersey City-based Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. Hudson County Superior Court Judge Peter Bariso Jr. said that offering expert testimony to support ex-gay therapy’s efficacy was nonsense because the so called therapy isn’t a recognized or supported form of treatment and therefore there can be no experts. Furthermore, any claims of success rates on promotional materials that JONAH used were not supported by actual science, further suggesting that JONAH had violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act.

The new federal legislation is authored by Democratic Congressman Ted Lui (Los Angeles). Rep. Lui was of course the driving force behind California’s legislative ban on conversion therapy being tried on minors. You will note that the federal legislation is geared toward preventing all forms of commercial conversion therapy as they, under the bill, would add up to fraud.

Lui has been unflinchingly critical of the practice of LGBT cure attempts, and in a statement announcing the federal bill he is likewise steadfast in opposing what he calls a “dangerous scam”:

“Three years after I authored the first statewide ban on conversion therapy in California, I am proud to introduce legislation on the federal level to combat this abusive practice,” said Congressman Lieu. “The truth is that being LGBT cannot be and does not need to be cured. 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. Conversion therapy sessions and materials are incredibly expensive, costing families thousands of dollars and offering no results. It’s a dangerous scam, and the government must act to protect LGBT Americans from fraudsters who take their money and lie to them.”

Since Lui’s groundbreaking state bill, a lot has happened in the fight against conversion therapy. The Supreme Court has twice allowed to stand lower court rulings upholding conversion therapy bans, one from California and one from New Jersey. Oregon has also just passed a similar ban, joining those two states and the District of Columbia. At the same time, a number of cases have emerged where people say they have been harmed by anti-LGBT therapy, and most prominently the case of Leelah Alcorn who took her own life late last year in part, she said, because she was forced into anti-trans therapy that attempted to make her conform to male sex expectations.

Alcorn’s death resulted in a national campaign to end anti-LGBT conversion attempts and calls for a federal ban, something that the Obama administration has said it supports.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, has welcomed the federal legislation, saying:

“So-called conversion therapy has no place in modern America and the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act is a critical first step toward ending this practice. The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act calls out ‘conversion therapy’ of trans, gay, lesbian, and bisexual people for what it is: deceptive and dangerous. And this bill asserts the government’s authority to crack down and penalize deceptive practices based on stereotypes rather than science. The National Center for Transgender Equality welcomes this bill and urges Congress to take swift action to ensure not another LGBT person is misled by damaging practices or forced to deny who they are.”

The bill will provide exemptions for religious freedom of speech and carefully side-steps issues of religious liberty because, as the factsheet on the bill notes, “it only applies to conversion therapists who charge for their services.” As such, priests or other religious figures counseling LGBT people would not be targeted.

It also grants the Federal Trade Commission broader powers of discretion to avoid any over-application of the bill if, for instance, an adult sought therapy to affirm their desire to be abstinent so as to live in line with their ideas about homosexuality and religion. Also, it would not mean that therapists would be forced to affirm LGBT identity (though, I should note, that is actually the accepted and science-backed therapeutic approach for anxiety relating to LGBT identity).

What this legislation does do is state the medical and legal facts surrounding conversion therapy. As Lui told Buzzfeed:

“There is no medical condition known as ‘being gay or lesbian’. That is not a medical disease, defect, and for people to charge money to treat you for something that’s not an illness is fraud. There already is an established baseline that you cannot practice medicine below a reasonable standard of care, and when you purport to treat someone for a condition they don’t have, that would be medical malpractice.”

No doubt this legislation will face opposition from the religious right, but state bans on conversion therapy have been supported by moderate Republicans so it is possible that this effort could, in time, garner bipartisan support.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing

Jan L.
Past Member 2 years ago


pam w.
pam w2 years ago

(Bravo, Timothy!)

Timothy W.
Timothy W2 years ago

Ron W.
There is no cure for being Gay or Lesbian, because there is nothing to cure. The good news is there is a cure for ignorance. It is called education.

pam w.
pam w2 years ago

Ron W.....being homosexual is NOT the equivalent of drug addiction or alcoholism!

It's a sexual orientation....nothing more and nothing less.

Sue H.
Sue H2 years ago

We can only hope that this bill gets passed. Allowing quacks and religious zealots to harm people with this "therapy" should be banned.

Ron Walker
RONALD Walker2 years ago

There is no cure for being gay or lesbian! As in being a alcoholic or drug addiction!

Bill Eagle
Bill E2 years ago

I am glad that it is finally being targeted. This therapy is dangerous and it does not work.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W2 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Rose Becke
Rose Becke2 years ago

Conversion therapy what crap