California bill would introduce fraud convictions for gay ‘cure’ therapists

A bill has been introduced in California which would see practitioners of debunked gay ‘cure’ therapies prosecuted for fraud.

Performing gay cure therapy on minors is already is illegal in nine US states and counting, as well as Switzerland, Malta, Taiwan, two Canadian provinces, and the Australian state of Victoria.

Experts overwhelmingly agree that attempts to cure sexuality are futile, misguided, and often extremely harmful. Attempts to force teens to repress their sexuality has been linked to depression, self-harm and even suicide.

Amid calls for lawmakers to take a tougher line against the fraudulent treatment, proposals have been tabled in California which would implement the harshest sanctions yet.

Out lawmaker Evan Low, who sits on the state’s Legislative Assembly, drew up AB-2943, known as the Unlawful business practices: sexual orientation change efforts bill.

The bill would build on the existing law to introduce a possible conviction under state law for gay ‘cure’ practitioners.

It would amend the section of the existing Civil Code section on fraud which deals with “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” – such as financial misrepresentation, false commercial claims and deliberate misselling to consumers – to include a prohibition on “advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual”.

It states: “Sexual orientation change efforts means any practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.

“Sexual orientation change efforts does not include psychotherapies that: (A) provide acceptance, support, and understanding of clients or the facilitation of clients’ coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices; and (B) do not seek to change sexual orientation.”

The opening text of the bill also codifies the vast number of medical experts who have disavowed all gay ‘cure’ treatments.

The legislature explains: “This bill would include, as 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.”

Evan Low

Low said: “Study after study has shown that conversion therapy is ineffective, damaging and counterproductive.

“It is our duty to protect Californians from such deceptive practices that will expose them to physical and emotional harm.”

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.

Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur said: “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.

“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.”

Carolyn Reyes of the National Center for Lesbian Rights said: “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.

“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.”

The UK government recently said it would consider banning gay ‘cure’ therapy.

British health minister Jackie Doyle-Price said: “The Department does not hold an estimate of the number of people that have undertaken gay conversion therapy.

“In 2017, the Government Equalities Office carried out a survey of the experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the United Kingdom, which included several questions about gay conversion therapy.

“Whilst not a statistically representative sample, the survey received over 100,000 responses and will help us improve our understanding of the numbers of people who have undergone, or have been offered, gay conversion therapy.

“This is an issue the Government is keeping under review and we are constantly working towards improving the evidence base.”

She added: “The Government rejects utterly the notion that sexuality is something to be cured, and condemns gay conversion therapy.

“The evidence base is clear that conversion therapy is not only ineffective, but is potentially harmful to participants.

“That is why officials have worked with the main registration and accreditation bodies for psychotherapy and counselling practitioners, including the UK Council for Psychotherapy, to develop a Memorandum of Understanding to help put a stop to this bogus treatment.”