Congress Members Urge FTC to Stop 'Ex-Gay' Therapy

Congress members
Clockwise from top left: Sen. Patty Murray; Rep. Ted Lieu; Rep. Jackie Speier; Sen. Cory Booker

Four Democratic members of Congress have urged the Federal Trade Commission to use its regulatory authority to end the practice of so-called conversion therapy, designed to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sens. Patty Murray of Washington State and Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Reps. Jackie Speier and Ted Lieu, both of California, today sent a letter to Edith Ramirez, chair of the FTC, expressing concern about the practice, also known as “ex-gay” or “reparative” therapy, and asking the agency to take action against it, according to a press release from Murray.

Lieu also has introduced a bill, along with Rep. Nancy Pelosi, seeking to have the FTC declare such therapy fraudulent and therefore illegal, but the letter asserts that the agency already has at least some authority to stop it.

“We urge the Federal Trade Commission to take all actions possible to stop the unfair, deceptive, and fraudulent practice of conversion therapy under the authority provided to your agency in the Federal Trade Commission Act,” the letter reads.

It notes that the practice “has been widely discredited by nearly all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological, professional counseling, educational, and social work professional organizations” and that it “provokes guilt, anxiety, and societal rejection that negatively impacts healthy development of children and youth.”

The letter and Murray’s press release stress particular concern about young people, but it’s unclear if the lawmakers want the FTC to address conversion therapy for adults as well. The Advocate has requested clarification from Murray’s staff. California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, the District of Columbia, and the city of Cincinnati have all barred licensed therapists from subjecting minors to the practice.