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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 26, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 09
Conversion therapy targeted in federal consumer fraud complaint
Section One
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Conversion therapy targeted in federal consumer fraud complaint

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a historic consumer fraud complaint on February 24, targeting so-called 'conversion therapy.'

In their complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the NCLR and SPLC charge that an organization called People Can Change (PCC) preys on vulnerable LGBT people and families by claiming that it can change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity.

The NCLR and SPLC are asking the FTC to take enforcement action to stop these deceptive practices and investigate all practitioners making similar claims.

Washington Sen. Patty Murray, who recently sent a letter to the FTC urging it to take 'decisive action' to stop the practice of conversion therapy, told SGN it was time to put a stop to the practice.

'It's time to finally put an end to so-called 'conversion therapy' that falsely claims to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity,' Murray said.

'Medical and mental health experts have long discredited conversion therapy; it can do real damage to LGBT youth, and it has no place in our country. I hope the Federal Trade Commission will take swift action to stop this deceptive and dangerous practice.'

According to the NCLR and SPLC, People Can Change expressly and implicitly claims that it can change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, and this claim constitutes deceptive, false, and misleading practices and can cause serious harm to consumers, in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act.

The complaint also alleges that, in violation of FTC guidelines, People Can Change:

o defrauds consumers into believing that being LGBT is a mental illness or emotional defect that needs to be cured, a false claim rejected for decades by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, multiple United Nations committees, and every other major medical and mental health organization in the country;

o falsely claims that its 'services' have a basis in science and fails to disclose that its practices can lead to depression, substance abuse, decreased self-esteem, and self-harm, including suicide;

o targets and exploits highly vulnerable groups, including LGBT youth, who already experience bias and rejection at alarming rates in society and their own homes; and

o uses unsubstantiated testimonials, endorsements, and scientific claims to justify charging hundreds and thousands of dollars to give vulnerable individuals false hope that their core identity is something to be cured.

'Today, after decades of advocacy, the voices of conversion therapy survivors have carried all the way up to the highest levels of government,' NCLR #BornPerfect campaign coordinator Samantha Ames said in a statement.

'This historic complaint is not only the first clear opportunity the Obama Administration has had to end these deadly practices for good but, if investigated fully, could very well be the final nail in the coffin of the entire conversion therapy industry. We sincerely look forward to working with the Federal Trade Commission to investigate this fraudulent and unethical organization - along with every trusted professional who profits from the anguish of LGBTQ youth and their families. But, even more so, we look forward to the day when every human being, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, knows they were born perfect.'

'This complaint builds on the Southern Poverty Law Center's groundbreaking lawsuit against New Jersey conversion therapy provider JONAH, in which a state jury unanimously found that its so-called 'therapy' program, which incorporated PCC's weekend-in-the-woods conversion therapy services, was consumer fraud and an unconscionable commercial practice,' said Scott McCoy, SPLC senior staff attorney.

'Our case shut JONAH down, shed light on PCC's harmful practices, and helped develop this important action to stop PCC and others in this industry from misleading and harming more people.'

HRC president Chad Griffin also weighed in on the issue.

'Conversion therapy is abusive and harmful to children, and we urge the FTC to join our call to ban its practice once and for all,' Griffin said. 'This is dangerous junk science that uses fear and shame to tell young people the only way to find love and acceptance is by changing the very nature of who they are.'

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