Central PA's LGBT News Source


PA bill would ban conversion therapy statewide


PA State Rep. Brian Sims has introduced House Bill 1293 that would ban the controversial practice of "conversion therapy" for individuals under the age of 18 across the state. Sims refers to the practice as child abuse.

A copy of the bill can be found and downloaded here.

The American Psychiatric Association has discredited the practice. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have banned the intervention which can include electroshock therapy. Pennsylvania’s capital city of Harrisburg is working to construct a ban. 

As of July 3, 2018, there were eight Pennsylvania municipalities that have acted on the controversial form of intervention: Reading, Allentown, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Doylestown, State College and Yardley Borough.

“Conversion therapy is insidious, harmful and has life-long effects," said state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, a co-sponsor of the legislation. "We are losing our young people who face this barbaric abuse and those who survive are left with scars that will be with them for their entire lives. You cannot fix what is not broken. This abuse certainly has no place in Pennsylvania.”

Both Sims and Kenyatta are openly-gay members of the state House of Representatives.

“After surviving five years of conversion therapy, I was finally free to be myself and be proud," said Mathew Shurka, chief strategist for the National Center for Lesbian Right’s Born Perfect Campaign. "I am grateful to Brian Sims for letting LGBTQ youth know they are born perfect. I look forward to Pennsylvania soon joining the many other states that have taken steps to protect vulnerable young from this discredited and harmful practice.” 

Interestingly enough, in July conversion therapy enthusiast McKrae Game told The Washington Post “he wants people to know that he was wrong about all of it.” He founded Hope for Wholeness Network, a faith-based conversion therapy program that “seeks to rid people of their LGBTQ identities.” After 20 years of telling his program participants they were “doomed for all eternity if they didn’t change their ways” he recanted.

Efforts In Harrisburg City

Meanwhile, Harrisburg City Council member Ben Allatt continues to work with the city’s legal department to "ban" conversion therapy within city limits. Allatt first successfully had council pass a resolution against the scientifically discredited intervention. Last January he told The Central Voice he expected the measure to pass by year’s end. He is still working with the city’s legal department to refine the measure.

Himself a past participant in conversion therapy, Allatt first successfully had council pass a resolution against the scientifically discredited intervention.

Allatt tells The Central Voice today “The legal department would like to see that the city Human Relations Commission, which supports the ban, to have a psychiatrist as a commission member.” As he understands the request, “a psychiatrist member could perform the function of an ‘intake interview’ to establish the information” the commission might find itself relying on to make a determination.

Harrisburg Human Relations Commission chair Russ Boggs in a previous Central Voice story describes efforts by Harrisburg City Council to take a stand on conversion therapy as “a good step forward.” There are no known or expected costs to the city of banning or resolving that city council doesn’t condone the therapy, according to Allatt.

Allatt agrees with the premise of the Kenyatta-Sims legislation banning the discredited practice as child abuse.