City Council proposes ban on conversion therapy for minors


Dan Gilman speaks at a rally for Katie McGinty in September. Councilmember Gilman, along with Bruce Kraus, pitched a legislation to ban conversion therapy for minors in the city. John Hamilton | Senior Staff Photographer

By Alexa Bakalarski / Assistant News Editor

Pittsburgh may soon have something in common with Cincinnati besides demographics: a ban on psychological therapy designed to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of someone younger than 18.

City councilmembers Bruce Kraus, who represents District 3 and serves as City Council president, and Dan Gilman, who represents District 8, introduced legislation Tuesday at a City Council meeting that would ban conversion therapy for minors in the city, making the therapy illegal conduct in the city.

The legislation would ban the practice for minors, who often would not have a choice in being subject to conversion therapy, though it would still be legal for adults.

Medical and LGBTQ+ communities have widely denounced conversion therapy — also called reparative therapy — as extremely harmful. A 2000 statement from the American Psychiatric Association states that the potential risks of conversion therapy are great and include self-destructive behavior, depression and anxiety.

Gilman said the regulations will be much like any other illegal conduct in the city code. Someone who saw the illegal conduct would report it to Pittsburgh police or city government, who would then refer for an investigation. If a person had violated the law, they would be cited and a judge would decide the penalty.

Peter Crouch, president of Rainbow Alliance, said conversion therapy makes LGBTQ+ people feel as though they’re wrong as individuals, and that some part of them needs to be righted.

“They feel broken and not a part of society,” Crouch said. “[Conversion therapy] tends to build those feelings in people rather than actually healing them.”

Gary Van Horn, president of the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh’s leading LGBTQ+ non-profit organization, said the Delta Foundation was “obviously in support” of the legislation.

“As we continue to have the conversation about the LGBTQ+ community being treated with dignity and respect, this is another thing that we need to continue to bring awareness and understanding to,” Van Horn said.

Van Horn said the impact of passing the legislation will be two-fold.

“One, obviously preventing such torture from actually happening in the city of Pittsburgh,” Van Horn said. “And bringing awareness and understanding about the LGBTQ+ community and about this horrendous thing that has happened throughout the United States.”

Gilman said conversion therapy has been on his radar since he came into office in 2013.

“It’s something that I find to be incredibly detrimental to the health and welfare of children,” Gilman said. “Unfortunately, it’s been brought back to the forefront with the most recent election and particularly with Vice President-elect Pence’s previous championing of this therapy.”

Vice President-elect Mike Pence has been linked as a supporter of conversion therapy. A statement on his archived website for a 2000 Congressional campaign regarding the Ryan White CARE Act, which provides federal funding for patients with HIV/AIDS suggests that the government should fund institutions that support conversion therapy.

“Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,” the statement reads. It’s listed under “Strengthening the American Family,” after bullet points opposing same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBTQ+ people.

Pence hadn’t addressed speculation regarding support of conversion therapy until this past weekend, when Pence spokesperson Marc Lott told The New York Times it was “patently false” that Pence supported conversion therapy, and that the statement from the archived website was misinterpreted.

But that didn’t stop a legislator in New York’s Erie County, Patrick Burke, from proposing a bill the week after the presidential election for his county banning conversion therapy for minors called Prevention of Emotional Neglect and Childhood Endangerment — or PENCE. The bill’s acronym got national attention.

Five states — Vermont, New Jersey, Illinois, California and Oregon — ban conversion therapy for minors, as well as the Washington, D.C., area and Cincinnati. Seattle and Miami Beach have also banned conversion therapy for minors. In February 2016, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced regulations to ban conversion therapy for minors.

The legislation will come up for a preliminary vote Dec. 7, and if passed, the legislation will be up for a final vote Dec. 13. If the legislation passes the final vote, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto will have 10 days to sign it into law or veto it.

“It was clearly time for us to at least make a statement that in the city of Pittsburgh, it’s something we won’t accept,” Gilman said.

Leave a comment.