By Angela D. Giampolo, original article appears in Philadelphia Gay News
conversionConversion therapy is a dangerous practice that employs a range of  pseudo-scientific treatments (and that’s putting it nicely!) aiming to “convert”  people from queer to straight. Conversion therapy has been a source of intense  controversy in the United States and around the world, and is highly criticized  by virtually all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and  professional counseling organizations. People who have undergone conversion  therapy have reported increased anxiety, depression and, in some cases, suicidal  ideation. These devastating consequences are why LGBT advocates around the  country, including our very own state Rep. Brian Sims and Sen. Anthony H.  Williams, here in Pennsylvania, are dedicated to ending conversion therapy and  defending the rights of individuals harmed by it.
Last month, Williams  and Sims announced a plan to introduce a complementary, bipartisan bill in the  state House to ban conversion therapy for minors. Williams introduce a companion  measure in the Senate earlier this year. This most recent bill came about in  January through Sims’ collaboration with Ed Coffin of the Peace Advocacy Network  and Monique Walker, a counselor at The Attic Youth Center.
“It was  something that we had been talking about for quite a long time, given the lack  of LGBT civil rights in Pennsylvania,” Sims said at a press conference  announcing the legislation. Sims and Williams said they expect their respective  bills to be addressed in next year’s legislative session.
Once the  American Psychiatric Association stopped classifying homosexuality as a mental  disorder in 1973, conversion therapy lost support. Most critical readings of the  scientific literature suggest that gay conversion therapy — and other attempts  to reorient same-sex love and attraction — simply do not work. Instead, they can  cause serious harm. Not only do these treatments prove unsuccessful, but there  are also no professional standards or guidelines for how they are conducted.  Early treatments in the 1960s and ’70s included aversion therapy, such as  shocking patients or giving them nausea-inducing drugs while showing them  same-sex erotica, according to a 2004 article in the British Medical Journal.  Today, methods include psychoanalysis, estrogen treatments to reduce libido in  men and even electroconvulsive therapy, in which an electric shock is used to  induce a seizure, with possible side effects such as memory loss, suicidal  thoughts and depression.
If successful, Pennsylvania will be the third  state to ban conversion therapy, after California and New Jersey.
In  California, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1172 into law last year, making  the state the first in the nation to pass legislation banning conversion therapy  for minors. Like the Pennsylvania bill, the California legislation bans  mental-health providers from engaging in conversion-therapy practices and states  that providers who do not abide by the ban will be subject to disciplinary  action. This bill, like Pennsylvania’s, does not target religious counselors or  groups practicing conversion therapy, in an attempt to steer clear of religious  pushback for First Amendment rights. In December, Liberty Counsel, on behalf of  litigious members of the National Association of Research and Therapy of  Homosexuals, among other plaintiffs, was granted an injunction by the Ninth U.S.  Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the court in August went on to uphold the new  law. The case could proceed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In New Jersey,  four former clients of a counseling group sued for deceptive practices, arguing  that they paid thousands for therapies that did not rid them of same-sex  attractions. Supporters of conversion therapy have framed the debate as a  parental-rights issue, however even Republican Gov. Christie said the health  risks of the practice outweigh such concerns. Massachusetts and New York are  also considering similar legislation.
However, just because  Pennsylvania’s bill shadows the already-successful California legislation  doesn’t mean this is going to be easy for us. Unlike in California and New  Jersey, Pennsylvania has both a Republican governor and a Republican-controlled  state legislature, which could greatly affect the bill’s chances for  passage.
The bill would seek to prohibit licensed therapists from trying  to change a child’s sexual orientation by attempting to alter their behaviors,  gender expression or sexual attraction to the same sex. The main issue to  address, as with all legislation that seeks to stop a particular  behavior/practice, is enforcement. What recourse will there be against licensed  physiotherapists and counselors who continue to engage in conversion therapy and  how will this be monitored by the state? Will the recourse be disciplinary  sanctions through the professional licensing board or criminal penalties?  Unfortunately, the bill still lacks the necessary language to outline the  consequences of continuing these practices.
The uncivilized  discriminatory practice of conversion therapy is not helping anyone and is  counterintuitive to decades of science and medical research. It is alarming that  things like this still happen in a country that prides itself on its diversity.  State by state, we need to push for legislation like this. Conversion therapy is  antiquated and offensive and does not represent contemporary American values.
Read more:  PGN-The Philadelphia Gay News. Phila gay news. philly news – Conquering conversion therapy

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