The Pennsylvania Senate will get the chance to weigh in on the growing movement to ban “ex-gay” therapy for minors.
State Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Eighth Dist.) announced last week that he intends to introduce a bill that would prevent service providers from administering to those under 18 therapy that seeks to change a patient’s sexual orientation. Former Rep. Babette Josephs introduced the state’s first such bill last session, but it died without action.
Williams’ bill, which he plans to introduce later this month, will be the first of its kind in the Senate.
Williams circulated a cosponsorship memo March 25. A staffer for Williams said Sen. LeAnna Washington has signed on as a cosponsor, and they expect more support before the measure is introduced.
A committee of the New Jersey Senate last month approved a similar measure. Gov. Chris Christie said he opposes conversion therapy but has not yet said if he will sign the measure if it reaches his desk.
Williams told PGN this week he learned of the issue from New Jersey’s debate.
“I didn’t even know this was going on, and I think a lot people today don’t know this exists. It’s just so out of date with the times in which we live. It’s barbaric,” he said.
All major professional medical and psychological associations have issued statements in opposition to sexual-orientation-change efforts.
“You think you live in a civilized country and that we’ve gotten past this period of indoctrination, but this represents the most extreme measure of contemporary indoctrination that I’ve seen since they used to restrain people with mental illnesses,” Williams said. “It is not productive and not effective but it’s actually counter-productive, immoral and irresponsible.”
Williams cautioned his fellow lawmakers that the legislation would not “prohibit counseling for gender transition or otherwise relating to understanding a person’s coping, social support or identity exploration and development.”
While the future of the legislation itself is uncertain in the Republican-controlled legislature, Williams said he also plans to back resolutions to condemn the practice and take other awareness-raising steps.
California last year became the first state in the nation to ban conversion therapy for minors, but the measure is now held up in court.