PHILADELPHIA — Two Pennsylvania state lawmakers announced Tuesday they will introduce a bipartisan bill in the state House of Representatives that would ban mental health providers from engaging in controversial gay-to-straight “conversion therapy” on minors.
State Reps. Brian Sims (D-Phila.), a civil rights attorney and the first openly gay lawmaker elected to the Pennsylvania legislature, cited similar legislation recently passed in California and New Jersey and said “Pennsylvania children deserve the same protection.”
Sims, along with state Rep. Gerald Mullery (D-Luzerne, Pa.) announced the House measure at a news conference Tuesday. A similar bill has already been introduced in the Senate by state Sen. Anthony H. Williams (D-Phila.).
“When I became aware of what was involved in conversion therapy, I equated it to medical and parental bullying,” said Mullery. “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.”
Sims noted that it has been 40 years since the American Psychological Association excluded homosexuality from being classified as a mental disorder.
“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.
Article continues below“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 added. “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.”
The announcement comes nearly one month after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a similar ban on conversion therapy in that state, and several weeks after an appeals court upheld California’s ban on the practice.