Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill last month that would ban the use of dangerous “treatments” to erase LGBTQ identity.
Evangelical preacher Franklin Graham was not happy about the proposal.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act of 2017 on April 25 to ban the practice of “conversion therapy,” a set of treatments that claim to treat LGBTQ identity as an addiction or illness and which can have devastating effects on those subjected to it.
Lieu told The Washington Post the bill would designate it fraudulent to “treat someone for a condition that doesn’t exist.”
“There’s no medical condition known as being gay,” Lieu said. “LGBTQ people were born perfect; there is nothing to treat them for. And by calling this what it should be, which is fraud, it would effectively shut down most of the organizations.”
Graham, who serves as president of the international Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, spoke out against the bill on Facebook and took issue with Lieu’s comments that LGBTQ people are “born perfect.”
“Homosexuality is defined by God as sin, an abomination to Him,” the pastor wrote on Friday.
Graham used the phrase “conversion therapy” in quotes to refer to conversion to Christianity, without acknowledging the actual treatments that have been used in attempts to “cure” individuals of being gay.
Conversion therapy, also called “reparative therapy” or “ex-gay therapy,” can include methods such as talk therapy, electroshock therapy, aversion therapy, treating LGBTQ identity as an addiction issue like drugs or alcohol, and more. Support for the controversial therapy is largely represented by conservative Christian groups like the Family Research Council and the American Family Association.
Many who undergo the treatments experience mental health and identity issues as a result that can last for years. Anecdotal reports reveal some LGBTQ youth who are forced into the therapies end up feeling so conflicted about their identities that they choose to kill themselves.
A 2009 San Francisco State University study found that LGBTQ youth who experience rejection by their parents and caregivers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity are eight times more likely than those who are accepted to attempt suicide, nearly six times as likely to report high levels of depression and over three times more likely to use illegal drugs.
“Conversion therapy causes serious harm,” Shannon Minter, legal director for The National Center for Lesbian Rights, told HuffPost in November. “In the short-term, queer youth who go through conversion therapy are being cheated of the opportunity to gain self-confidence and self-esteem, to get support from family members and other adults, and to have normal adolescent developmental experiences around friendship, dating, and other social experiences.”
Long-term health consequences of being subjected to conversion therapy, Minter said, “can include substance abuse, dropping out of school, HIV infection, depression, and suicide attempts.”
Lieu has proposed roughly the same bill for the past two consecutive years and successfully passed legislation banning the practice in California in 2012. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Christian minister’s attempt to overturn California’s ban on conversion therapy. The judges ruled that the legislation was constitutional and didn’t impinge upon free exercise of religion nor the activities of clergy members.