A companion bill to the House's Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act — an effort to ban LGBT "conversion therapy" introduced last year by California congressman Ted Lieu — was introduced in the Senate on Thursday.
Democratic Sens. Cory Booker and Patty Murray (pictured), of New Jersey and Washington State, respectively, are behind the Senate's version of the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act. If passed into law, the bill would consider all efforts to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity an "unfair or deceptive act or practice" under the Federal Trade Commission Act. Such efforts, sometimes called "reparative" or "ex-gay" therapy, have been denounced as ineffective and harmful by every major medical and mental health organization in the United States.
Considering so-called reparative therapy a form of "medical malpractice," the FTC would be tasked with monitoring and ending such practices nationwide. The bill's House version would allow private citizens to file federal lawsuits against any practitioners engaging in "conversion therapy" and charging money for their services.
The federal effort to ban "ex-gay" services follows in the wake of several states making the practice illegal, including New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Washington, D.C., and California. The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act would go further than the bans in these states by banning the practice in its entirety, where the statewide bans only prohibit licensed therapists from using the debunked practice on minors.
"I am thankful for Senator Murray’s and Senator Booker’s leadership in the Senate and grateful that the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act now has broad bicameral support," Lieu said in a statement. "I urge our colleagues in the House and the Senate to join us in the fight to end the quackery that is conversion therapy."
The damaging effects of so-called conversion therapy garnered national attention in 2014, when the suicide note of 17-year-old Ohio trans girl, Leelah Alcorn, went viral, detailing the harm she suffered under the “Christian” therapist she was sent to by her parents to “cure” her of being transgender. A petition on the government’s We the People platform calling for a nationwide ban, to be called “Leelah’s Law,” garnered more than 100,000 signatures, prompting a response from the White House where the administration expressed its “concern” over the use of the discredited treatment. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a public statement condemning the practice.
This February, a coalition of LGBT groups filed a groundbreaking federal complaint with the FTC, alleging that practictioners of so-called conversion therapy were guilty of fraud.