- The Washington Times - Monday, May 18, 2015

The push to end so-called “conversion therapy” against homosexuality is expected to gear up Tuesday with the introduction of a House bill to ban the therapy nationally.

The bill comes a few weeks before a consumer fraud lawsuit described as a “David and Goliath” battle over the therapy begins in New Jersey, and in the wake of a request for a federal probe into whether the therapy’s marketing and practices are “deceptive” and “dangerous.”

Opponents of sexual orientation change efforts, such as Reps. Ted W. Lieu and Jackie Speier, both California Democrats, say being homosexual is not a disorder or illness, and efforts to change one’s sexual orientation are wrong and harmful.

Supporters of such therapy counter that it has helped many people successfully reduce or eliminate their unwanted same-sex attractions, and it’s wrong to trample people’s rights to seek the counseling of their choice.

Mr. Lieu’s new bill, the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, was prepared after President Obama’s senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, said the White House supported a national ban on “conversion” therapy for minors.

“I am ecstatic that the leader of the free world has called for an end to gay ‘conversion’ therapy. And I commend President Obama for recognizing ‘reparative’ therapy for the crappery that it is,” Mr. Lieu told a reporter for Frontiers Media on Monday.

Mr. Lieu authored California’s state ban on conversion therapy for minors when he was in the state legislature. New Jersey and District lawmakers have since followed suit, and a similar ban is at the desk of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, the nation’s first openly bisexual governor. [Update: Mrs. Brown signed the Oregon therapy ban on May 18. A signing ceremony is scheduled for May 21, Associated Press reported.]

David Dinielli of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Samantha Ames, who heads the #BornPerfect campaign at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, are expected to speak in favor of Mr. Lieu’s bill at a briefing Tuesday.

However, Regina Griggs, executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, said Mr. Lieu’s legislation was not based on science, ignored the risks for HIV in youth who have sex with males and didn’t understand that youth who seek therapy are trying to overcome unwanted same-sex attractions.

“All therapy is reparative,” said Ms. Griggs. But Mr. Lieu’s “game plan” is to “take away the rights of parents and children to receive help.”

Separately, Ms. Speier wrote to the Federal Trade Commission on May 13 asking it to “investigate the claims and advertising practices” of therapists and assess the practice “as unfair or deceptive.”

Also, on June 1, a consumer fraud lawsuit is set to begin in New Jersey Superior Court. It is filed by several gay men and some of their mothers against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), JONAH co-founder Arthur Goldberg and JONAH-affiliated counselor Alan Downing.

The plaintiffs are represented by SPLC, who argue that the Jewish nonprofit falsely claimed that its services would be effective in changing a person’s sexual orientation. The men paid from $60 an hour to $100 an hour for therapy that only led to their depression and emotional harm, the lawsuit said. Some men also said they felt abused by being asked to partially or fully disrobe for a therapy activity, or snap a rubber band on their wrists when they felt same-sex attractions.

Charles LiMandri, founder of Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF), who is defending JONAH and its associates, said the complaints are “sensationalized.”

This is “an incredible David and Goliath story,” Maggie Gallagher, chairman of the board of FCDF, said Monday. The lawsuit seeks to make a legal beachhead to ensure that if anyone feels same-sex attractions, “the only thing they are allowed to do is embrace the Southern Poverty Law Center’s morality,” she said.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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