Allegheny County Council to consider another conversion therapy proposal
Republicans on Allegheny County Council introduced an ordinance Tuesday that would ban certain conversion therapy treatments, but not the widely discredited practice itself.
The measure is a response to legislation proposed earlier this year by Paul Klein, D-Point Breeze, and council President John DeFazio, D-Shaler, that would prohibit mental health providers from using conversion therapy, which attempts to remove a person’s feelings of same-sex attraction or to change their gender identity.
The initial proposed ordinance, which has been sitting in the Health and Human Services Committee since March, broadly defined mental health providers as anyone who provides mental health services.
“Councilman Klein and President DeFazio’s bill is too vague,” said Sue Means, R-Bethel Park, the primary sponsor of the new bill.
Her version, co-sponsored by Sam DeMarco III, R-North Fayette, prohibits involuntary treatment. It also prohibits “any therapy method causing physical pain to a minor” — including “electroshocking a minor’s body part; penetrating a minor’s fingers with needles; injecting a minor with drugs to induce vomiting; slapping, hitting, punching, kicking…” or other physical contact that inflicts pain or the fear of pain — but is not an outright ban on conversion therapy.
“Mine is to prevent harmful therapy so that children aren’t physically harmed,” Means said of her version of the bill, adding that she wants to preserve a minor’s right to seek counseling to meet their goals, “whatever those goals are.”
“The other version would limit their ability to set their own goals,” she said.
She also criticized the initial proposal for potentially extending to members of religious clergy, like youth pastors.
Means’ proposal was moved to the Health and Human Services Committee.
Following Tuesday’s meeting, DeFazio said he would review the proposed ordinance.
Klein could not be reached for comment and was absent from the council meeting.
“It essentially bans the harmful methods that are used, not the goals,” said Curtis Schube, an attorney with the Pennsylvania Family Institute.
The conservative, Harrisburg-based organization consulted on the proposed ordinance.
“What it also does is, it protects the minor who wants to have the treatment to get to the goal that they want, and also protects the parental rights to help direct the treatments as well,” Schube said.
Conversion therapy has been discredited by a range of national organizations.
A 2008 report issued by the American Psychological Association and American Academy of Pediatrics takes the position that “homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be ‘cured.’”
California, Nevada, New York, Oregon and Washington State, all ban on conversion therapy.
Pittsburgh City Council passed a ban about two years ago, followed by other Pennsylvania cities, including Philadelphia and Allentown.
Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter .