Benham, Kenyatta and Smith-Wade-El introduce bill to protect minors from conversion therapy in PA

HARRISBURG, March 31– State Reps. Jessica Benham, D-Allegheny; Izzy Smith-Wade-El, D-Lancaster; and Malcom Kenyatta, D-Phila., have introduced legislation (H.B. 575) to protect minors from conversion therapy.

“There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that tells us efforts to change an individual’s sexual identity through so-called ‘therapy’ causes serious harm to their mental health,” said state Benham, who co-chairs the PA LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “It is shameful that in 2023 Pennsylvania still allows the abhorrent practice known as conversion therapy to occur, and I am looking forward to outlawing it to protect and affirm LGBTQ+ youth across our Commonwealth.”

“Conversion therapy is anti-gay bias masquerading as science,” said Smith-Wade-El. “This abusive practice has caused immense harm on patients, including depression, trauma, drug use, homelessness and suicide. It reinforces the idea that there is something psychologically wrong with LGBTQ people because of their sexual identity. It’s long past time that PA joins 20 other states and the District of Columbia in banning this abhorrent practice to protect the physical and psychological well-being of LGBTQ minors.”

The legislation, the Protection of Minors from Conversion Therapy Act, seeks to address harms associated with conversion therapy by prohibiting a mental health professional from engaging in this archaic treatment with an individual under the age of 18.

“This dangerous and discriminatory practice known as conversion therapy is a misnomer. It should be called conversion abuse,” said Kenyatta, co-chair of the PA LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with LGBTQ kids, but there is a massive problem with bigoted adults who continue to attack them. I stand with Representatives Smith Wade-El and my co-chair of the House LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, Representative Benham, in protecting the commonwealth’s LGBTQ youth from this horrific practice.”  

According to the representatives, conversion therapy has been strongly opposed by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades, including the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, American College of Physicians, American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychoanalytic Association, American Psychological Association, National Association of Social Workers, Pan American Health Organization and the World Psychiatric Association.

Approximately 698,000 LGBTQ adults in the United States have reported receiving conversion therapy, including at least 350,000 LGBTQ individuals who received treatment as minors, the representatives said.

“Governor Tom Wolf took a first important step by restricting the practice of conversion therapy by executive order,” the representatives said. “But a future governor can easily rescind the order, which only applied to state agencies. We must make the banning of this practice law to protect the well-being of our LGBTQ youth.”

The bill has been referred to the Heath Committee for consideration.