News (USA)

U.S. Congresswoman calls for end to LGBT ‘conversion quackery’

WASHINGTON – U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) on Wednesday introduced the Stop Harming Our Kids (SHOK) resolution, co-sponsored by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.), aimed a protecting LGBT youth from psychological abuse caused by “gay to-straight” conversion therapy.

The SHOK resolution is the first federal action that seeks to bring an end to discredited sexual orientation change efforts.

U.S. Rep Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), center, announces the Stop Harming Our Kids (SHOK)
resolution at a press conference in Washington on Nov. 28.

At a press conference held earlier Wednesday, Speier announced the introduction of the SHOK resolution as well as her work to investigate whether federal funds have been spent on these unethical practices that have been rejected as scientifically invalid by the American Psychiatric Association and other mental health groups for nearly 40 years.

“Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered is not a disease to be cured or a mental illness that requires treatment. Any effort to change sexual orientation is not medicine, it’s quackery, and we should not be supporting it with taxpayer dollars,” said Speier.

“California led the nation on this issue when Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1172, a law that prohibits state licensed mental health professionals from engaging minors in these harmful and abusive therapies. Governor Brown did the right thing and I am urging all states to consider similar laws,” said Speier.

As reported by LGBTQ Nation on Tuesday, the SHOK resolution encourages each state to take steps to protect minors from efforts that promote or promise to change sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, based on the premise that homosexuality is a mental illness or developmental disorder that can or should be cured.

In addition to introducing the SHOK resolution, Speier is investigating whether or not federal taxpayer funds have been spent on the practice of conversion therapy with minors through Medicaid or TRICARE reimbursements.

“In my cursory investigation, I have found two additional instances of so-called mental health professionals that advertise these services and appear to be eligible for federal dollars. This morning, I sent letters of inquiry to Medicaid and TRICARE to determine if these instances reflect systemic weaknesses that allow federal taxpayer dollars to go to harmful, illegitimate medical services,” said Speier.

LGBT advocacy groups were quick to applaud the resolution and Speier’s efforts:

“We commend Congresswoman Speier for protecting our nation’s children by condemning dangerous psychological practices,” said Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign. “We call on Congress to do the right thing for our children by supporting the Stop Harming Our Kids resolution.”

Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), the nation’s oldest and largest organization for parents, families, friends, and allies of LGBT people, said it “applauds Rep. Jackie Speier’s introduction today of a resolution that would express at the federal level what we have seen firsthand: that reparative therapy is harmful to our kids, and must be banned as a practice.”

“The doctrine espoused by some therapists—that gay people can and should change their sexual orientation—has been condemned by every mainstream professional medical and mental health association, including The American Medical Association, The American Psychiatric Association, The American Psychological Association, The American Counseling Association, The American Academy of Pediatrics, and The National Association of Social Workers. This resolution would simply support what has already been proven: that what LGBT youth need is the love, support, and acceptance of their parents, not to be told to change who they are.”

“One of society’s most important functions is to protect children from the exploitation and abuse of predators,” said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out. “It is critical that unethical charlatans be held accountable for malice in the guise of medicine that often exacts psychological wreckage on young clients and their families.”

“We applaud Congresswoman Speier for showing true leadership by shining a light on this important issue. We join her in urging states to protect young people and their families from this dangerous quackery, which has been condemned by every leading mainstream mental health organization in the country,” said Kate Kendell, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Speier was joined at the press conference by survivors Sheldon Bruck and Jerry Spencer, Licensed Clinical Social Worker Laura Booker, Christine Sun from the Southern Poverty Law Center, Ashland Johnson from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Brian Moulton from the Human Rights Campaign.

A copy of the resolution is here.

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