NCLR files consumer fraud lawsuit against Berkeley therapist for conversion therapy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact:
Lauren Gray
Director of Communications
National Center for Lesbian Rights
Office: 415.365.1324
Mobile: 215.983.3099
LGray@nclrights.org


CONSUMER FRAUD LAWSUIT FILED AGAINST BERKELEY THERAPIST FOR CHARGING TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS FOR DISCREDITED CONVERSION THERAPY

Therapist pressured lesbian client to change her sexual orientation, shamed her, urged her to change her clothes and appearance and begin dating a man

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (July 13, 2017)—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP filed a complaint on behalf of Katherine McCobb, against California-licensed marriage and family therapist Lloyd Willey. Willey told McCobb that being a lesbian is unnatural and pathological and that her sexual orientation could be changed using therapy. The practice of conversion therapy has been discredited by the American Psychological Association and other professional counseling organizations as ineffective, unethical, and dangerous. McCobb paid Willey more than $70,000 for eight years of therapy based on fraudulent, harmful lies.

“Therapists who exploit vulnerable people by taking their money based on false claims that being lesbian or gay is unnatural and that counseling can change a person’s sexual orientation are engaging in fraud,” said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Price Minter. “Our complaint alleges that our client in this case paid tens of thousands of dollars based on false promises that therapy could change her attraction to women. Charging a person money based on such bald-faced misrepresentations violates California’s consumer protection laws.”

“Business professionals who are charging fees for services cannot make false and misleading statements about those services to their clients,” said Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP Partner Jeremy Kamras. “Our complaint alleges that the defendant did just that by persuading a vulnerable client to pay him for services based on blatant misrepresentations and fraudulent practices.”

McCobb began paying Willey for therapy when she was 25 years old. Although she did not seek out therapy because of her sexual orientation, Willey fixated on McCobb’s lesbian identity and began to pressure her to become straight, telling her that being a lesbian was unnatural and that she could “rewire” her brain. He publicly shamed her during group therapy sessions and urged her to change her appearance to be more stereotypically feminine, including losing weight, growing out her hair, changing her wardrobe, and wearing make-up. Willey also pressured her to begin dating a man who was also Willey’s client.

“I trusted my therapist, and I was defrauded of tens of thousands of dollars as a result,” said the plaintiff in this case, Katherine McCobb.

NCLR has been working to protect LGBTQ people from efforts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity for more than 20 years. In June 2014, NCLR launched #BornPerfect: The Campaign to End Conversion Therapy, a targeted campaign to end conversion therapy through litigation, public education, and  legislation.

To read the complaint, click 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.

Federal Appeals Court Lets Stand California Law Protecting Youth from Dangerous Anti-Gay ‘Conversion’ Therapies

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (January 29, 2014)—Today, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit let stand an earlier decision by a three-judge panel of the same court upholding Senate Bill 1172, a California statute enacted in 2012 that protects minors from dangerous and ineffective mental health treatments that falsely claim to be able to change a young person’s sexual orientation.

The California Legislature enacted the law to prevent state-licensed mental health professionals from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender expression of minor patients. The Legislature based the law on the unanimous consensus of the nation’s leading medical and mental health associations that such purported treatments have no scientific basis and put children at risk of serious harms, including depression and suicide.

In the lawsuit that the Ninth Circuit ruled in today, the statute was challenged by therapists who wish to engage in these practices on minor patients and who argued that the law violated their right to freedom of speech.  In August 2013, a panel of the Ninth Circuit held that California’s law was a permissible regulation of medical treatment to protect public health and safety and did not violate the free speech rights of therapists. The Ninth Circuit’s ruling today allows that decision to stand, thereby ensuring that California’s law will remain in effect.

California’s law was defended in the case by California Attorney General Kamala Harris and by Equality California, the lead sponsor of the legislation and California’s largest organization advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Equality California was represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the law firm of Munger, Tolles, & Olson LLP.

Three of the Ninth Circuit’s 27 active judges dissented from today’s ruling, based on disagreement with the original panel’s reasoning. The dissenting judges took no position on whether the statute is valid, stating: “The regulation at issue may very well constitute a valid exercise of California’s police power[.]”

New Jersey enacted a similar law in 2013. A federal district court upheld New Jersey’s law on November 8, 2013, and that law is currently the subject of an appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In that litigation, NCLR represents Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s largest LGBT rights organization.

Said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter, Esq.: “Today’s decision affirms that California can protect young people and their families from being deceived and harmed by unethical therapists who falsely claim they can change a person’s sexual orientation. These practices have no scientific basis and can cause serious, lasting harms that devastate families and destroy young lives. California has a duty to protect the public from deceptive and unsafe practices by medical professionals who are licensed by the state. The Legislature did the right thing by enacting this protective law, and the ruling today strongly confirms that other states should follow California’s example and adopt similar laws.

Added Equality California Executive Director John O’Connor: “Equality California is proud to have sponsored and defended this important law. We are grateful to Senator Ted Lieu for authoring it and to Governor Brown for signing it. We are also grateful for medical and mental health associations that supported the law and helped to educate the legislature about the serious dangers posed by scientifically baseless efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender expression. No ethical professional should put a young person’s life and well-being at risk by engaging in these ineffective and dangerous practices. Every young person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and to be valued for who they are.”


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.