Rep. Ted Lieu fights for a national ban on gay conversion therapy

By Gary Walker

As a member of the California Legislature, Ted Lieu wrote the 2012 state law that prohibits mental health professionals from practicing gender identity or sexual orientation “conversion therapy” on minors. Eighteen other states have followed suit.

Now representing Westside communities in Congress, the outspoken Democrat is seeking a national ban on the practice.

“I’m very pleased to author the first law in the nation to ban gay conversion therapy. We need to ban this evil and fraudulent practice in all 50 states,” said Lieu, who plans to introduce federal legislation similar to a 2015 bill that was quashed by that congressional session’s Republican majority.

Lieu announced his legislation on June 6 at the UCLA School of Law during a roundtable discussion with LGBTQ activists and advocates.

Panelists included Kate McCobb, who underwent conversion therapy at age 25 at the urging of a psychiatrist she was seeing to gain clarity about other aspects of her life. Now 39, McCobb settled a lawsuit against that practitioner in February with the assistance of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“My therapist quickly focused on a repressed childhood trauma. He convinced me that I had been sexually abused as a child and told me that was why I was a lesbian,” recalled McCobb, who has no memory of childhood sexual abuse and is now certain she was not sexually abused as a child.

“Being LGBTQ is not a trauma response to sexual abuse,” she said. “It’s a natural variation of human behavior.”

During eight years of conversion therapy, however, McCobb was convinced to stop dating women and start dating men under orders from her therapist to “reinvent” herself and dress in a more “feminine” manner.

The American Psychiatric Association is formally opposed to “any psychiatric treatment, such as reparative or conversion therapy, which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder, or based upon the a priori assumption that a patient should change his/her sexual homosexual orientation,” according to its website.

Asked whether a national gay conversion therapy ban could overcome a 53-47 Republican advantage in the U.S. Senate, Lieu was optimistic.

“I feel pretty good about getting this through the [Democrat-controlled] House. If enough people rise up to say this is evil, crazy and wrong, [the Senate] might pass it.”