California Leaders Move to Call Conversion Therapy Fraud

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Aiming to protect victims of “treatments” that promise a cure to homosexuality or gender identity issues, California lawmakers are pushing the state to declare conversion therapy a fraud.

The proposal, sponsored by the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, would bring conversion therapy under the state’s consumer-protection laws and allow individuals to sue practitioners.

Uniformly discredited worldwide by major medical and mental health organizations, the practice promises to “cure” an LGBT person. Individuals, often minors, are put through a range of outlandish and cruel treatments including hypnosis, injections and even electric shocks.

It’s already illegal in California to subject minors to the “therapy,” but Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Cupertino, says protections are also needed for adults.

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

The California proposal comes as the stigmatized practice returns to the spotlight because of a movie and talk of banning conversion therapy in other states.

In January, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” garnered top honors at the Sundance Film Festival. Set in 1993, the film details the experiences of a teenager forced by her evangelical aunt to undergo conversion therapy in secluded camp.

Meanwhile lawmakers in Florida and Maine are mulling bills that would follow California’s lead and ban physicians and counselors from using the practice on minors. Many other states including Illinois, Massachusetts and Connecticut have passed statewide bans on minors.

As proposed, Assembly Bill 2943 would “authorize any consumer who suffers damages as a result of these unlawful practices to bring an action against that person to recover damages, among other things.” Conversion therapy would be an “unlawful practice prohibited under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual.”

Low’s measure is supported by the LGBT Caucus, Equality California, the Trevor Project and 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,” said Carolyn Reyes, coordinator at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “This legislation confirms what courts have already decided: Practicing or advertising conversion therapy is a form of consumer fraud.”


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