LGBT Caucus Chair Introduces Bill to Declare Conversion Therapy a Fraudulent Practice

Thursday, February 22, 2018

SACRAMENTO—Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino), Chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, has introduced Assembly Bill 2943 to declare conversion therapy a fraudulent practice in the state of California. Although conversion therapy with minors is illegal in the state, there are no such protections for adults. In 2009, an American Psychological Association task force issued a report declaring the practice “poses critical health risks” and contributes to anti-LGBT stigma.

“Study after study has shown that conversion therapy is ineffective, damaging, and counterproductive,” said Assemblymember Evan Low. “It is our duty to protect Californians from such deceptive practices that will expose them to physical and emotional harm.”

Conversion therapy aims to change a patient’s sexual orientation through counseling, hypnosis, or in some rare cases, electric shock treatment. The American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and the American Medical Association all oppose the practice on the basis that it is not evidence-based and potentially harmful to the patient’s mental health. The practice also contributes to social stigma by characterizing homosexuality as a mental illness, a view that has been discredited for decades.

The American Psychological Association advises mental health professionals to avoid telling patients that they can change their sexual orientation due to a lack of evidence that such a change is possible and the potential for harm to the patient’s mental health.

AB 2943 would declare conversion therapy a fraudulent practice under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act. Doing so would extend certain consumer protections to individuals harmed by sexual orientation change efforts. The bill is co-authored by members of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus and supported by Equality California, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the Trevor Project, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“Conversion therapy flies in the face of a consensus of respected health organizations – including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other groups – that efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity are harmful,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. “Even so, this sham practice persists even in California and consumers need additional tools such as those provided under this bill to protect themselves from “professionals” profiting off of endangering others.”

“Even today, both young people and adults are often swindled by unscrupulous practitioners who falsely claim that they can cure a person from being gay or transgender,” said Carolyn Reyes, Youth Policy Counsel & #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “People who go through conversion therapy, whether with a licensed therapist or an unlicensed organization, frequently find that they have wasted years of their lives and thousands of dollars on these false promises. This legislation confirms what courts have already decided: Practicing or advertising conversion therapy is a form of consumer fraud.”

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