Nineteen states have barred attempts at making gay people straight. Should the federal government follow?
Conversion therapy is the attempted process of switching gay or potentially gay people — most frequently adolescents — to heretosexuality. An estimated 698,000 American adults have undergone the therapy at some point in their lives, according to the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute.
California became the first state to ban the practice for minors in 2012. Since then, a total of 19 states now ban the practice. For the most part they’re blue states, although Utah banned the practice in January.
About 52% of the estimated LGBTQ population still lives in states that allow conversion therapy.
What the legislation does
The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act would institute a federal ban on conversion therapy.
What supporters say
Supporters argue conversion therapy is a dangerous and discriminatory attempt to change a critical aspect of a person’s identity which likely can’t — or at least shouldn’t — be changed.
“Conversion therapy is a fraudulent practice based on the prejudiced belief that someone can or should change their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Rep. Lieu said in a press release. “It inflicts immeasurable harm on those subjected to it, and turns a profit for scammers posing as mental health professionals… Now it’s time to end this scam in all states and pass a federal ban.”
“In 2019, we know that being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community isn’t an affliction, a disease, or some chronic condition requiring medical treatment. Rather, the politicians who say it is are on the wrong side of history,” Sen. Murray said in a Senate floor speech. “And it’s a practice that’s especially harmful to LGBTQIA+ children, who we already know are vulnerable to increased harassment and discrimination because of who they are.”
What opponents say
A surprising jurisdiction repealed its existing ban on conversion therapy in September: New York City, pressured by a lawsuit filed by local Orthodox Jewish psychotherapist Dovid Schwartz.
“The government does not belong in a therapist’s office,” Schwartz said. “I’m relieved that the city council has decided not to step into my office and tell my patients what we can and cannot talk about — something it has no right to do. My patients come to me voluntarily, with every man or woman who walks through my door seeking help to live the life they want to live. And I’ve seen many of them achieve the outcome they want.”
“Because of the community I serve, nearly all my patients share my faith, and they seek out my counsel about issues of sexuality and family in part because my perspective is grounded in our mutual Jewish faith and shared respect for Torah teachings,” Schwartz continued. “I’m grateful that my city council is no longer threatening to censor those conversations and impose government-approved orthodoxy on me or my patients.”
Odds of passage
The House version has attracted 135 Democratic cosponsors. It awaits a potential vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
A House version introduced in the previous Congress in April 2017 received an even larger 177 Democratic cosponsors, despite fewer Democrats in the chamber at the time. It never received a vote in the then Republican-controlled chamber.
The Senate version has attracted 30 cosponsors: 29 Democrats and one independent. It awaits a potential vote in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Odds of passage are low in the Republican-controlled chamber.
A Senate version introduced in the previous Congress in April 2017 attracted 34 cosponsors — 33 Democrats and one independent — but never received a vote.