Bethlehem City Council Passes Measure Protecting LGBTQ Youth from 'Conversion Therapy'

by HRC Staff

Bethlehem becomes the eighth Pennsylvania locality to protect youth from the abusive, discredited practice

Post submitted by Ianthe Metzger, Former Press Secretary, State & Local 

Today, the Human Rights Campaign praised the Bethlehem City Council for passing a measure protecting LGBTQ youth in the city from the dangerous, abusive and discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy.” The ordinance, which was introduced by City Councilmember Bryan Callahan and sponsored by Councilmember Shawn Martell, also had strong support from the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBTQ Community Center, KidsPeace Hospital, Valley Youth House, and Metropolitan Community Church of the Lehigh Valley. Bethlehem is the eighth Pennsylvania locality to pass such a measure following Reading, Allentown, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Doylestown, State College, and Yardley Borough.

“No child should be put through the dangerous and inhumane practice of conversion therapy which doesn’t work, and is tantamount to child abuse,” said Allison Van Kuiken, HRC Pennsylvania State Director. “That’s why this abusive practice has been condemned by every major medical and mental health organization, and why 14 states and Washington, D.C. have enacted laws or regulations to protect LGBTQ minors. We applaud the Bethlehem City Council and organizations like the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center and Valley Youth House who made this possible, and remain committed to working with our partners in Pennsylvania and across the nation to ensure that young people are protected from this junk science in every jurisdiction.”

Said Adrian Shanker, Executive Director of Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, “Bethlehem City Council's unanimous support for an end to conversion therapy in their city is an important victory for LGBT youth and a clear reminder that the LGBT community deserves high-quality health care, not discredited junk science."

So-called “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 by every major medical and mental health organization.

HRC recently released a video featuring the story of Alex Cooper, a teen in Utah who was subjected to “conversion therapy” and tells the story of her abuse. Watch and share the video here.

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 harmful 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 Pennsylvania, a growing number of municipalities across the country, including cities and counties in Ohio, Washington, Florida, New York, Arizona, and Wisconsin, have enacted similar crucial protections. Connecticut, California, Nevada, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New York, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Washington, Maryland, Hawaii, and New Hampshire all now have laws or regulations protecting youth from this abusive practice, and similar legislation is currently awaiting gubernatorial action in Delaware.

According to a recent report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, an estimated 20,000 LGBTQ minors in states without protections will be subjected to conversion therapy by a licensed healthcare professional if state lawmakers fail to act. HRC has 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.