Pennsylvania Governor Signs Order 'Discouraging' Conversion Therapy

"I want all our kids to know that they matter and they belong," Gov. Tom Wolf said.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) on Tuesday signed an executive order discouraging conversion therapy in the state and seeking to protect LGBTQ people from the discredited practice.

“Conversion therapy is a traumatic practice based on junk science that actively harms the people it supposedly seeks to treat,” Wolf said Tuesday. “This discriminatory practice is widely rejected by medical and scientific professionals and has been proven to lead to worse mental health outcomes for LGBTQIA+ youth subjected to it.

“This is about keeping our children safe from bullying and extreme practices that harm them.”

The order directs state agencies to discourage “counseling,” which purports to change someone’s sexual or gender identity, and instead actively promote “evidence-based best practices” to support LGBTQ children and their families.

The order also directs state agencies to ensure that no state funds or other resources are being used to provide conversion therapy and to make sure the public knows how to report licensed professionals who engage in the practice.

Notably, Tuesday’s order stops short of banning conversion therapy outright. For that, Wolf would need the General Assembly to pass a bill, which he’s called on legislators to do.

“Rightwing extremists across the nation have been using their power to bully LGBTQIA+ youth,” Wolf wrote in a tweet Tuesday. “I want all our kids to know that they matter and they belong. And in PA, we have their back.”

There are 20 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, with laws protecting youth from conversion therapy, according to data tracked by the Human Rights Campaign. Republican governors enacted the laws in eight of those states. At least 70 cities and counties have also enacted similar protections.

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