PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 17 – State Reps. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) and Gerald Mullery (D-Luzerne) introduced a bipartisan bill Tuesday to protect Pennsylvania children by banning mental health providers from engaging in anti-gay “conversion therapy” for minors.
State Sen. Anthony H. Williams (D-Philadelphia/Delaware), recently introduced a similar bill (S.B. 872).
“When a child is at his or her most vulnerable stage in life, it is appalling to think that there are adults willing and too frequently able to destroy their sense of well-being,” Williams said. “That’s beyond wrong. As adults, we are charged to protect children, who come in all shapes, sizes, colors and orientations. By no means should we condone any activity that would demean them, particularly in this day and age.”
“Just last month, New Jersey’s Republican governor and Democratic legislature worked together to ban this practice. The governor there cited ‘a litany of potential ill-effects of trying to change sexual orientation, including depression and suicide.’ California has also passed a similar law. Pennsylvania children deserve the same protection,” said Sims, a civil rights attorney and the first member of the Pennsylvania legislature elected as an out gay candidate.
“When I became aware of what was involved in conversion therapy, I equated it to medical and parental bullying,” Mullery said. “Children who were subjected to this so-called therapy suffer the same effects as children who were subjected to traditional bullying, including suicide, attempted suicide and low self-esteem.”
“It’s been 40 years since the American Psychological Association excluded homosexuality from being classified as a mental disorder, and the APA has published studies showing that patients younger than 18 suffer from a multitude of harmful effects associated with this so-called therapy, including withdrawal and suicidal thoughts. It’s time to protect Pennsylvania children from this quackery that can inflict years of harm for those who manage to survive it,” Sims said.
“In my experience, there is oftentimes a deeply rooted connection to religious fundamentalism that underscores the thought processes of many advocates of so-called ‘conversion therapy,’ which highlights the need for clinicians to take a hard look at their own biases and motivations for practicing under the auspices of good clinical practice and ignoring the ethical issues and very real consequences of these methods,” said Monique Walker, doctoral candidate at Drexel University and Counseling Services Coordinator at the Attic Youth Center in Philadelphia, who has assisted many young people in dealing with the harms and trauma of “conversion therapy” practices.
Walker had an article published in the Journal of Feminist Family Therapy earlier this year addressing this topic within her professional field, titled “When Clients Want Your Help to ‘Pray Away the Gay’: Implications for Couple and Family Therapists.”
“It is hard to imagine that there could be anyone who would oppose this legislation, as ‘conversion therapy’ has been thoroughly discredited as ineffective and harmful by nearly every legitimate mental health professional and organization,” said Ed Coffin, LGBT advocate as well as campaign director and media and public relations director for Peace Advocacy Network. “We know for a fact that it’s not possible to change sexual orientation and any attempt to do so is incredibly destructive.”