Congressman Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles) is hoping to replicate his work in California as a state legislator, authoring the first statewide ban on gay conversion therapy three years ago. This week, he’s introduced a bill that will ban the controversial therapy at the federal level.
“Having met many of the survivors of this fraudulent therapy and heard their moving stories, it’s clear to me that not only is conversion therapy fraud, it’s dangerous fraud, it is harming people,” Lieu told NBC News.
The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act would include gender as well as sexual orientation, and would have the Federal Trade Commission police those who market and practice conversion therapy.
“Imagine a medical doctor, a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist telling a teenager that something is wrong with them for being who they are, that being gay or lesbian is an illness that can be cured,” Lieu said.
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Mathew Shurka, 26, spent five years in therapy beginning at age 16 with four different doctors. He’s joining the congressman’s effort to create a federal ban on conversion therapy.
“It doesn’t work,” Shurka said. “I’m an openly gay man today."
Shurka said ten years ago, there were no role models or leaders to help him through his identity struggles. He willingly went through the therapy, he said, because he was a minor, and he trusted his parents. But the therapy isolated him and led to high levels of anxiety.
“It drove me to stay home, to eat, to depression, to contemplating suicide,” Shurka said.
Lieu said while the bill focuses on the marketing of the therapies, he still anticipates arguments from religious and social conservatives.
“I am hopeful to get bipartisan support because fraud is fraud,” said Lieu. “There is no medical basis for this therapy.”