Joe Biden issues executive order to fight conversion therapy & LGBTQ fostering discrimination

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden Photo: Shutterstock

President Joe Biden is signing an executive order today to fight conversion therapy worldwide. The order addresses several other issues involving anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

The executive order tells the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue rules that ban the use of federal funds for programs that offer conversion therapy. HHS will also have to increase public awareness about the harms of conversion therapy.

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Major health and mental health organizations oppose conversion therapy, which describes a set of techniques that practitioners promise will turn gay and bi people straight and trans and non-binary people cis.

Conversion therapy is based on the idea that LGBTQ identity is a problem to be fixed, which can lead to long-term damage to victims’ self-esteem. A 2013 survey showed that 84 percent of former patients of conversion therapy said it inflicted lasting shame and emotional harm, and another study found that LGBTQ people who were forced into conversion therapy had an attempted suicide rate five times above normal.

The Biden administration is also encouraging the Federal Trade Commission to consider classifying conversion therapy as an “unfair or deceptive act or practice” that would require consumer warnings.  The Departments of State, Treasury, and HHS are also working on a plan to ensure that U.S. foreign aid funds don’t go to conversion therapy.

Banning conversion therapy was a Biden campaign promise in the 2020 Democratic primary. Biden’s LGBTQ policy brief said that he would work to enact the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, which bans conversion therapy.

The bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) but has not even come up for a vote.

The executive order also addresses discrimination against LGBTQ families looking to foster children. Noting that LGBTQ parents are seven times more likely than straight/cis parents to adopt a child from foster care, Biden ordered HHS to increase LGBTQ discrimination protections in the foster care system.

This is an area of contention with the right. The Trump administration loosened protections in this area, allowing adoption agencies that receive federal funds to refuse to work with same-sex couples. HHS will also expand volunteer family counseling and support programs and research the mental health impacts of family rejection on LGBTQ people.

In a call before the announcement, a senior administration official stressed Biden’s support for the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing federal civil rights legislation and ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination in many areas. The bill passed the House last year but has stalled in the Senate.

Biden will give a speech to celebrate Pride Month this afternoon at 4 p.m. Eastern time during a reception at the White House.

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