Pennsylvania Lawmakers Propose LGBTQ 'Conversion Therapy' Ban

If passed, the Keystone State would become the nation's sixth to ban the practice.

Pennsylvania lawmakers called for a statewide ban on conversion, or “ex-gay,” therapy Thursday, calling the practice “barbarism.”

The controversial treatment, which is administered with the intention of changing an LGBTQ person’s sexual orientation to fit heteronormative expectations, has been explicitly discredited by the American Psychiatric Association and other leading medical associations. In 2015, former President Barack Obama called for an end to the practice, but to date, only a handful of states have passed laws banning it for minors. 

Pennsylvania State Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) met with Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Dr. Gail Edelsohn, president-elect of the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society, on Thursday to discuss the proposed bill, The Philly Voice reported. In 2013, Sims introduced House Bill 1811, which would have prohibited mental health professionals from “engaging in sexual orientation change efforts” with minors, but it stalled. 

Sims, who is Pennsylvania’s first openly gay elected representative, told reporters at Philadelphia City Hall that banning conversion therapy was “an issue of respecting medicine and science, and it’s an issue of recognizing that this is child abuse, not child treatment.” 

Hear Sims speak about the conversion therapy bill below. 

In an email to The Huffington Post, Sims elaborated further, saying that such a ban should “transcend party lines and politics.” 

“Those pushing this practice on unknowing parents and scared youth are inflicting pain, fear and self-hatred,” he said. “This practice has been condemned by every professional medical organization and if we do not ban it, we enable it to continue to inflict needless pain into innocent lives of LGBT youth.”

If the forthcoming bill passes, Pennsylvania would following in the footsteps of neighboring New Jersey, which banned conversion therapy in 2013. California, Oregon, Illinois and Vermont also have statewide bans in place. 

In November 2016, a New York lawmaker cheekily tipped his hat to Vice President Mike Pence, who has appeared to support conversion therapy in the past, when he introduced a countywide bill that would ban such practices for minors. Patrick Burke, who is a legislator for Erie County’s 7th district in Buffalo, proposed the Prevention of Emotional Neglect and Childhood Endangerment bill ― or PENCE. 

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