Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Should the FTC Ban Conversion Therapy?

While insanity reigns in the Republican Party, the Southern Poverty Law Center and allies are seeking to push the Federal Trade Commission - which among other things is supposed to stop consumer fraud and abuses - to ban "ex-gay" conversion therapy because (i) it doesn't work and is condemned by every legitimate medical and mental health association in America, and (ii) it amounts to consumer fraud as a New Jersey court held earlier in the year.  While the acceptance of LGBT individuals is increasing across the country, the Christofascists and their political whores - almost all Republicans - continue to use conversion therapy to maintain the lie that being LGBT is a "choice."  A piece in The Advocate looks at this new effort to eliminate this societal evil.  Here are article excerpts:
Several LGBT groups have joined together to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that practitioners of so-called conversion therapy, which aims to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

The federal consumer fraud complaint was filed today against a Virginia-based group called People Can Change, which claims that sexual orientation and gender identity can be changed through the power of prayer and counseling. PCC offers counseling in pursuit of this goal, in addition to referrals to other organizations that claim to be able to "cure" someone of being LGBT.

This claim has been soundly debunked by every major medical and psychiatric health organization in the country, while the discredited practice has been outlawed for use on minors in California, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., . . .

The federal complaint alleges that People Can Change — and all practitioners of what is also called "ex-gay" therapy — "defrauds consumers into believing that being LGBT is a mental illness or emotional defect that needs to be cured." The group's advertising of that false claim violates Section 5 of the FTC Act, which "prohibits unfair and deceptive practices," according to the complaint.

The claims that PCC makes, both explicitly in its marketing materials and implicitly throughout its advertising, have no basis in science, the complaint contends. At the same time, PCC consistently fails to disclose the side effects that have been proven to accompany such efforts to "pray away the gay," including depression, substance abuse, decreased self-esteem, and increased risk of self-harm, including suicide. This deceptive campaign "Targets and exploits highly vulnerable groups, including LGBT youth, who already experience bias and rejection at alarming rates in society and their own homes," according to a press release issued today.

"This historic complaint is not only the first clear opportunity the Obama Administration has had to end these deadly practices for good, but, if investigated fully, could very well be the final nail in the coffin of the entire conversion therapy industry."

The tactic builds off an argument successfully employed in a New Jersey court last year, when the Southern Poverty Law Center sued Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing for defrauding clients by claiming JONAH therapists could make gay people straight. After a judge determined that it was illegal for JONAH therapists to tell clients that being gay or transgender was a "mental disorder," a jury ordered the Jewish "ex-gay" group to pay $72,400 in damages to the former clients it defrauded.

One can only hope that the FTC will outlaw the practice and give victims of these fraudulent ministries and therapies a firm ground on which to take legal action against the religious extremists and charlatans pushing the lie that gays can "change."  I tried to change for 37 years - it doesn't work and only leads to self-hatred and unhappiness.

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