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Allentown, PA Becomes third Municipality in PA to Protect Youth from “Conversion Therapy”

HARRISBURG– Today, Equality Pennsylvania, the statewide organization working to advance LGBTQ equality and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, praised the Allentown, Pennsylvania City Council for unanimously passing and Mayor Ed Pawlowski for signing a measure protecting LGBTQ youth from the dangerous and discredited practice of “conversion therapy.” The ordinance prohibits licensed mental health professionals from engaging in conversion therapy with minors within the city and imposes potential business license revocation for violations.  Allentown is the third Pennsylvania city to pass such a measure, following Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

“Today, Allentown joins Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, becoming the third safe municipality for LGBTQ youth to live in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” added Equality Pennsylvania spokesperson John Dawe. “Along with the elected officials that passed this ordinance, we commend and thank the team at the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Center and Executive Director Adrian Shanker, a former Equality PA board chair, for their work to make this a reality.  Equality Pennsylvania continues to push for statewide protections against the dangerous practice of conversion therapy.”

“Cities and states are stepping up in the face of a federal government that has made attacking the LGBTQ community one of its top priorities,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Conversion therapy is child abuse and we commend the Allentown City Council for putting the well-being and safety of our youth first, and remain committed to working with our partners nationwide to ensure that this quackery is banned in every city in every state.”

“We appreciate every person who showed up at city council or who donated to support the cause. The result is clear: LGBT youth can now be sure that when seeing a mental health professional in the City of Allentown, they will receive high-quality health care, not harmful junk science,” Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center Founder and Executive Director Adrian Shanker wrote in a message to supporters. “We are proud of our work on this ordinance, but even as we celebrate tonight, we recognize that our work is far from complete. Our vision is clear: we must end the harmful practice of conversion therapy in the Lehigh Valley.”

Shanker also shared that the Bradbury-Sullivan Center team proposed the ordinance and worked on it for months, in partnership with pro-bono attorneys at National Center for Lesbian Rights and Jerner & Palmer P.C.

“Conversion therapy,” sometimes referred to as “sexual orientation change efforts” or “reparative therapy,” encompasses a range of dangerous practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. These practices are based on the false premise that being LGBTQ is a mental illness that needs to be cured — a theory that has been rejected for decades by every major medical and mental health organization.

There is no credible evidence that conversion therapy can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. To the contrary, research has clearly shown that these practices pose devastating health risks for LGBTQ young people such as depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, homelessness, and even suicidal behavior. The dangerous practice is condemned by every major medical and mental health organization, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and American Medical Association.

In addition to cities in Pennsylvania, a growing number of municipalities across the country, including cities in Ohio and Florida, have enacted similar crucial protections. Connecticut, California, Nevada, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New York, New Mexico and Rhode Island all have laws or regulations protecting youth from this abusive practice.

HRC partnered with the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and state equality groups across the nation to pass state legislation ending conversion therapy. More information on the lies and dangers of efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity can be found here.  Also, earlier this month, HRC launched HRC Rising, the largest grassroots expansion in its history that will include significant investments in Pennsylvania ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Follow hrc.org/resist for more information.

Photo: Adrian Shanker addresses the Allentown City Council.  Photo by Liz Bradbury.

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