Blog

Allentown, PA Becomes Latest Municipality to Protect Youth from “Conversion Therapy”

Today, HRC and Equality Pennsylvania, the statewide organization working to advance LGBTQ equality, praised the Allentown, Pennsylvania City Council for unanimously passing and Mayor Ed Pawlowski for signing a measure protecting LGBTQ youth from the dangerous and discredited practice of “conversion therapy.” The ordinance prohibits licensed mental health professionals from engaging in conversion therapy with minors within the city and imposes potential business license revocation for violations.. Allentown is the third Pennsylvania city to pass such a measure, following Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

“Cities and states are stepping up in the face of a federal government that has made attacking the LGBTQ community one of its top priorities,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Conversion therapy is child abuse and we commend the Allentown City Council for putting the well-being and safety of our youth first, and remain committed to working with our partners nationwide to ensure that this quackery is banned in every city in every state.”

“Today, Allentown joins Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, becoming the third safest place for LGBTQ youth to live in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” added Equality Pennsylvania spokesperson John Dawe. “Along with the elected officials that passed this ordinance, we commend and thank the team at the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Center and Executive Director Adrian Shanker, a former Equality PA board chair, for their work to make this a reality.  Equality Pennsylvania continues to push for statewide protections against the dangerous practice of conversion therapy.”

“Conversion therapy,” sometimes referred to as “sexual orientation change efforts” or “reparative therapy,” encompasses a range of dangerous practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. These practices are based on the false premise that being LGBTQ is a mental illness that needs to be cured — a theory that has been rejected for decades by every major medical and mental health organization.

There is no credible evidence that conversion therapy can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. To the contrary, research has clearly shown that these practices pose devastating health risks for LGBTQ young people such as depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, homelessness, and even suicidal behavior. The dangerous practice is condemned by every major medical and mental health organization, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and American Medical Association.

In addition to cities in Pennsylvania, a growing number of municipalities across the country, including cities in Ohio and Florida, have enacted similar crucial protections. Connecticut, California, Nevada, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New York, New Mexico and Rhode Island all have laws or regulations protecting youth from this abusive practice.

HRC has partnered with the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and state equality groups across the nation to pass state legislation ending conversion therapy. More information on the lies and dangers of efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity can be found here.

Earlier this month, HRC launched HRC Rising, the largest grassroots expansion in its history that will include significant investments in Pennsylvania ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Follow hrc.org/resist for more information.