by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
Washington's senior U.S. senator, Patty Murray, joined with her New Jersey colleague Cory Booker to introduce a new bill against so-called 'conversion therapy.'
The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act would define 'conversion therapy' as a fraudulent practice and empower the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to crack down on therapists who claim to change people's sexual orientation or gender identity.
State attorneys general would also be given authority to enforce claims against conversion therapists in federal courts.
'So-called 'conversion therapy' is fraud, and it has no place in our country,' Sen. Murray said in a statement.
'This bill would make it abundantly clear that the FTC can take swift action to put a stop to this deceptive and damaging practice. I will continue to push for ways to make sure all people, regardless of who they are or who they love, are treated equally and with respect.'
'This so-called therapy is harmful, especially to children,' said Sen. Booker, who last year introduced a Senate resolution condemning the use of conversion therapy.
'Our legislation will remove any question that the FTC and state attorneys general have the tools they need to classify conversion therapy as what it is - fraud - and ban its use. Conversion therapy is a discredited, harmful practice that has been rejected by countless medical and mental health organizations for years. It has no place in our society.'
Sen. Murray is the senior Democratic member on the Senate's Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. She and Booker were joined by 16 other Democratic senators who co-sponsored the measure, including Bernie Sanders and Washington's junior senator, Maria Cantwell.
Other co-sponsors were Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
'The practice of so-called conversion therapy has been widely discredited by medical professionals, and evidence shows that it not only doesn't work but also can have life-threatening consequences. It is nothing short of child abuse,' HRC President Chad Griffin said in response to the introduction of the new bill.
'It is past time this quackery is banned from coast to coast, and we applaud Sens. Patty Murray and Cory Booker for legislation that gets us one step closer to that day.'
Earlier this year, Murray and Booker, along with Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Ted W. Lieu (D-Calif.) sent a letter to FTC head Edith Ramirez, calling on the agency to take action to stop conversion therapy. Under the Federal Trade Commission Act, the FTC has the responsibility to prevent business practices that are deceptive or unfair to consumers, the letter said.
California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to protect young people from these harmful practices by prohibiting licensed mental health practitioners from conducting conversion therapy on minors. More than 20 states, including Washington state, have introduced similar legislation. New York has an administrative policy against the practice.
In 2009, the American Psychological Association studied what are called 'sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE),' 'conversion therapy,' 'reparative therapy,' or 'sexual orientation therapy.' Its report concluded that 'efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm, contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates.'
In 2015, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration published a report, which summarized the work of an expert panel.
The DHHS report found 'that variations in sexual orientation and gender identity are normal, and that conversion therapies or other efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity are not effective, are harmful, and are not appropriate therapeutic practices.'
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