World’s Largest Psychiatric Association Condemns Conversion Therapy

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (March 23, 2016)—Today, the world’s largest organization of mental health professionals—representing more than 200,000 people in 118 countries—called for an end to the discredited practice of “conversion therapy,” which is linked to serious harms, including depression, substance abuse, and suicide.

In a statement issued today, the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) says: “WPA believes strongly in evidence-based treatment. There is no sound scientific evidence that innate sexual orientation can be changed. Furthermore, so-called treatments of homosexuality can create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish, and they can be potentially harmful. The provision of any intervention purporting to “treat” something that is not a disorder is wholly unethical… Psychiatrists have a social responsibility to advocate for a reduction in social inequalities for all individuals, including inequalities related to gender identity and sexual orientation.”

“We are thrilled that the World Psychiatric Association has joined the chorus of national and international voices calling for an end to conversion therapy,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator and Staff Attorney Sam Ames. “Their announcement sends a clear message that these practices have no place in modern medicine and that policies that condone them engender hatred and endanger lives all across the globe. Today, we are closer than ever to the day when all LGBTQ youth are embraced by their families, supported by their communities, and given no reason to doubt that they were born perfect.”

Today’s announcement comes less than a year after the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a groundbreaking report calling for all member countries to end conversion therapy. That report followed the UN Committee Against Torture’s historic decision to raise the issue as a potential violation of human rights just after NCLR delivered testimony at the 2014 review of the United States. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also recently released a report, “Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth,” following independent statements by President Obama, Senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy calling for an end to the practices.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) has been at the forefront of the movement to the end the practice. In 2014, it launched its #BornPerfect campaign to end conversion therapy by protecting youth from these practices through legislation and litigation and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by attempts to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Five jurisdictions—California, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Oregon, and Illinois—now protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy at the hands of licensed mental health professionals, with leaders from several other states working on similar legislation in the 2016 legislative session.

In February, NCLR, the Human Rights Campaign, and Southern Poverty Law Center filed a landmark federal consumer fraud complaint asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the false and misleading claims used by the conversion therapy industry.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

National Organizations Target ‘Conversion Therapy’ Quacks with Historic Federal Consumer Fraud Complaint

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 24, 2016)—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a federal consumer fraud complaint against People Can Change, an organization that preys on vulnerable LGBT people and families by using damaging and discredited claims that it can change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

In the complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency charged with protecting America’s consumers, the groups lay out the junk pseudoscience that Virginia-based People Can Change (PCC) uses to expose the American people to ineffective and dangerous “conversion therapy” practices that have for decades been linked to serious harm, including depression, substance abuse, and even suicide.

The organizations are asking the FTC to take enforcement action to stop PCC’s deceptive practices and investigate all practitioners making similar claims.

The complaint alleges that PCC’s advertisements and business practices, which expressly and implicitly claim that they can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, constitute deceptive, false, and misleading practices and can cause serious harm to consumers, all in direct violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act.

The complaint also alleges that, in violation of FTC guidelines, PCC, like other practitioners in the “conversion therapy” industry:

  • Defrauds consumers into believing that being LGBT is a mental illness or emotional defect that needs to be cured, a false claim rejected for decades by the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, multiple United Nations committees, and every other major medical and mental health organization in the country;
  • Falsely claims that its “services” have a basis in science, and fails to disclose that its practices can lead to depression, substance abuse, decreased self-esteem, and self-harm, including suicide;
  • Targets and exploits highly vulnerable groups, including LGBT youth, who already experience bias and rejection at alarming rates in society and their own homes;
  • And uses unsubstantiated testimonials, endorsements, and scientific claims to justify charging hundreds and thousands of dollars to give vulnerable individuals false hope that their core identity is something to be cured.

“Today, after decades of advocacy, the voices of conversion therapy survivors have carried all the way up to the highest levels of government. This historic complaint is not only the first clear opportunity the Obama Administration has had to end these deadly practices for good, but, if investigated fully, could very well be the final nail in the coffin of the entire conversion therapy industry. We sincerely look forward to working with the Federal Trade Commission to investigate this fraudulent and unethical organization – along with every trusted professional who profits from the anguish of LGBTQ youth and their families. But, even more so, we look forward to the day when every human being, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, knows they were born perfect.” said NCLR #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator Sam Ames.

“Conversion therapy is abusive, harmful to children, and we urge the FTC to join our call to ban its practice once and for all. This is dangerous junk science that uses fear and shame to tell young people the only way to find love and acceptance is by changing the very nature of who they are,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.

“This complaint builds on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s groundbreaking lawsuit against New Jersey conversion therapy provider JONAH, in which a state jury unanimously found that its so called ‘therapy’ program, which incorporated PCC’s weekend-in-the-woods conversion therapy services, was consumer fraud and an unconscionable commercial practice,” said Scott McCoy, SPLC senior staff attorney. “Our case shut JONAH down, shed light on PCC’s harmful practices, and helped develop this important action to stop PCC and others in this industry from misleading and harming more people.”

The complaint comes as the movement to end “conversion therapy” continues to gain momentum. Earlier this month, Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Cory Booker of New Jersey, joined by California Reps. Jackie Speier and Ted Lieu, issued a letter to the FTC urging the agency to use its authority to take “all actions possible to stop the unfair, deceptive and fraudulent practice of conversion therapy. …”

Their request follows a groundbreaking Department of Health and Human Services report called “Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth,” and months after President Obama, Senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued independent statements calling for an end to the practices.

Last year, a SPLC lawsuit forced the New Jersey “conversion therapy” provider JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing) to permanently stop its bogus program and pay damages to plaintiffs. A jury found that JONAH had committed consumer fraud and engaged in unconscionable commercial practices in violation of state law.

California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon and the District of Columbia have passed laws protecting LGBT minors from “conversion therapy,” and more than 20 states have introduced similar legislation this year. New York is also adopting regulations to protect youth from “conversion therapy” as a result of executive action by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The law firm Cooley LLP serves as counsel to the petitioners in this matter.

Read the full complaint to the FTC here.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

NCLR Applauds Governor Cuomo for Taking Bold Executive Action to End Conversion Therapy in New York

NEW YORK (February 6, 2016)—New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a series of comprehensive regulations to prevent the practice of so-called lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender “conversion therapy,” which has been deemed harmful to patients by a wide variety of leading medical and mental health professionals. The multi-agency regulations announced today ban public and private health care insurers from covering the practice in New York State and also prohibit various mental health facilities across the state from conducting the practice on minors.

“We could not be more grateful to Governor Cuomo for standing up to the conversion therapy industry today and protecting LGBTQ New Yorkers from these dangerous and discredited practices,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator and Staff Attorney Sam Ames. “The regulations announced today are historic, not only representing the first time a governor has taken executive action to protect youth from conversion therapy, but also ensuring that protection doesn’t stop when they turn 18. Thanks to the tireless advocacy of survivors, mental health professionals, faith leaders, and youth advocates in New York, we are one step closer to finally closing this cruel chapter of our history. We look forward to other states following Governor Cuomo’s leadership and working together toward the day all LGBTQ children know they were born perfect.”

NCLR has been at the forefront of the fight to end conversion therapy and works closely with legislators and state leaders across the country to introduce bills protecting youth from these dangerous practices, which are associated with extreme depression, substance abuse, and even suicide. Five jurisdictions—California, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Oregon, and Illinois—have passed legislation to protect LGBTQ youth from the practices, with leaders from several other states planning introduction of similar legislation in the 2016 legislative session. In 2014, NCLR launched its #BornPerfect campaign to stop conversion therapy across the country by passing laws, fighting in courtrooms, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by attempts to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

Leading Youth Advocacy Attorney Joins NCLR

Carolyn Reyes Joins Team Working on Efforts to End Conversion Therapy

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (November 4, 2015)—The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) has announced that leading youth advocacy attorney Carolyn Reyes is joining the staff as Youth Policy Counsel. In this newly created position, Reyes will work on NCLR’s #BornPerfect campaign to end conversion therapy on LGBT youth, as well as other youth-related projects.  

Reyes is a national expert on issues related to LGBT youth in out-of-home care. She has spent more than two decades working on behalf of children, youth, and families in various capacities, including as a child welfare worker, children’s attorney, children and family therapist, and school counselor. Prior to joining NCLR, she served as Director of getREAL California, a collaboration between NCLR, the Center for the Study of Social Policy, and Family Builders aimed at integrating sexual orientation and gender identity/expression-informed policy and practice into California’s child welfare system.

“Carolyn is one of the most accomplished and well-respected youth advocates in the country,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “Her work on behalf of LGBT youth has been groundbreaking and life changing, and we are thrilled that she has joined our team working to ensure that LGBT young people are fully supported and treated with equal dignity and respect.” 

“I am thrilled to be joining the amazing team at NCLR to protect and empower some of the most vulnerable youth in our country. I have spent my entire legal career collaborating with NCLR to reform public systems of care to be more affirming of and equitable towards LGBT youth,” said Reyes. “This is the logical next step in my career and I am exceedingly grateful to be taking it!”

NCLR started its Youth Project more than two decades ago to ensure the safety and well-being of LGBT youth at home, in school, and in public systems of care through litigation, policy advocacy, and systemic reform. The project prioritizes full integration and affirmation of transgender youth, fair and equal treatment of LGBT youth in out-of-home care, and increasing family acceptance of LGBT youth to keep them out of state care.     

Last year, NCLR launched its #BornPerfect™ campaign to stop conversion therapy across the country by passing laws, fighting in courtrooms, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by attempts to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. 

NCLR has been at the forefront of the fight to end conversion therapy, and works closely with legislators and state leaders across the country to introduce bills protecting youth from these dangerous practices, which are associated with extreme depression, substance abuse, and even suicide. Five jurisdictions—California, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Oregon, and Illinois—now protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy at the hands of licensed mental health professionals, with leaders from several other states planning introduction of similar legislation in the 2016 legislative session.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

NCLR and HRC Release Sample Legislation to End Conversion Therapy on LGBTQ Youth

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (October 20, 2015)—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and their families, and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, released sample legislation for state legislators and equality groups who want to protect LGBTQ youth from the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy.

This first-of-its-kind sample legislation draws from best practices in the jurisdictions that have passed successful laws, the more than 20 states that have introduced similar legislation, the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act (a federal bill that takes a fraud-based approach to regulate conversion therapy), and the experience of legal experts working on this vitally important issue.

“This sample legislation is the culmination of two decades working to end conversion therapy, three years helping states take legislative steps to protect youth from these ineffective and harmful practices, and a truly exceptional coalition of legal experts from across the country. What has emerged from this extraordinary process is a bill that is both true to our shared values and legally airtight. Moving forward, we could not be more excited to work with state legislators and equality groups equipped with this powerful tool to end conversion therapy once and for all,” said NCLR #BornPerfect Coordinator and Staff Attorney Sam Ames.

“This important sample legislation comes at a critical time in our fight to protect our nation’s LGBTQ youth from the dangerous practice of conversion therapy,” added HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “A junk pseudoscience that amounts to nothing more than child abuse, this so-called therapy has been denounced by every mainstream medical and mental health association. We look forward to partnering with state legislators and key stakeholders in working to pass these vitally important measures to stop this horrific practice once and for all.”

The sample legislation comes just days after the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, issued a report calling for an end to conversion therapy and urging family acceptance of LGBTQ children.

NCLR and HRC are at the forefront of the fight to end conversion therapy, and work closely with legislators and state leaders across the country to introduce bills protecting youth from these dangerous practices, which are associated with extreme depression, substance abuse, and even suicide.

Five jurisdictions—California, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Oregon, and Illinois—now protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy at the hands of licensed mental health professionals, with leaders from several other states planning introduction of similar legislation in the 2016 legislative session. Last year, NCLR launched its #BornPerfect campaign to stop conversion therapy across the country by passing laws, fighting in courtrooms, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by attempts to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

NCLR Applauds Obama Administration’s Groundbreaking Report on Conversion Therapy

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (October 15, 2015)—Today the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), released “Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting And Affirming LGBTQ Youth,” a groundbreaking new report that provides accurate information about how conversion therapy harms lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. The report was released this morning and will be discussed in depth by several of the authors this afternoon at a panel moderated by National Lesbian Rights (NCLR) #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator and Staff Attorney Sam Ames at the Utah LGBT Summit, part of the National LGBT Rural Summit Series, hosted by the White House and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Ogden.

The report confirms that conversion therapy is an inappropriate practice that should not be utilized by mental health practitioners, puts to rest once and for all any remaining claims that sexual orientation or gender identity can or should be changed, and finds that any attempt to do so “perpetuates outdated views of gender roles and identities as well as the negative stereotype that being a sexual and gender minority or identifying as LGBTQ is an abnormal aspect of human development.”

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Conversion therapy is a practice that is not supported by credible evidence and has been disavowed by behavioral health experts and associations.
  • Same-gender sexual orientation—including identity, behavior, and attraction—and variations in gender identity and gender expression are a part of the normal spectrum of human diversity and do not constitute a mental disorder.
  • None of the existing research supports the premise that mental or behavioral health interventions can alter gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • Interventions aimed at a fixed outcome, such as gender conformity or heterosexual orientation, including those aimed at changing gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation, are coercive, can be harmful, and should not be a part of behavioral health treatment.
  • Informed consent cannot be provided for an intervention that does not have a benefit to the client.
  • Conversion therapy may put young people at risk of serious harm.
  • Given that conversion therapy is not an appropriate therapeutic intervention, efforts should be taken to end the practice.

“We could not be more grateful to SAMHSA, HHS, and the entire Obama Administration for producing such an in-depth and lifesaving report, and to the APA for inviting us to the table with such high caliber experts to observe the process. From representing LGBTQ youth institutionalized for their identity to advocating for laws protecting them from physical and psychological abuse, NCLR has been leading the fight to end these dangerous and discredited practices for decades. For the first time in history, advocates are seeing our national leaders prioritize what is too often an issue of life and death for LGBTQ youth. But, more importantly, young people are seeing their heroes stand up for them. We thank President Obama for his strong leadership on this issue and look forward to using the groundbreaking findings of this report to bring about a day when every child knows they were #BornPerfect.” said Ames.

In addition to including recommendations for eliminating the use of conversion therapy through battling discrimination, legislation, and training, the SAMHSA report also includes guidance for families, communities, providers, and educators. Read the full report here.

NCLR has been at the forefront of the fight to end conversion therapy and works closely with legislators and state leaders across the country to introduce bills protecting youth from these dangerous practices, which are associated with extreme depression, substance abuse, and even suicide.

Five jurisdictions—California, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Oregon, and Illinois—now protect LGBTQ youth from the practices, with leaders from several other states planning introduction of similar legislation in the 2016 legislative session.

Last year, NCLR launched its #BornPerfect campaign to stop conversion therapy across the country by passing laws, fighting in courtrooms, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by attempts to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.