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Equality PA congratulates City of Bethlehem on passing ban on so-called ‘conversion’ therapy; calls for statewide ban

BETHLEHEM, PA – On Tuesday, July 17, 2018, Bethlehem City Councilmembers voted 6-0, with Council Member Michael Colon absent, on final passage of the Appropriate Mental Health Services Ordinance, which bans the harmful practice of conversion therapy on minors within the City of Bethlehem. Mayor Bob Donchez has pledged to sign the ordinance into law.

The ordinance was sponsored by Councilmembers Bryan Callahan and Shawn Martell and proposed to Council by Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, which also worked to ban the practice in Allentown and Reading in 2017. Submitting testimony in support of the ban included KidsPeace Hospital, Valley Youth House, and Metropolitan Community Church of the Lehigh Valley.

‘Conversion’ therapy is a harmful, unscientific, and debunked practice that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Every major professional health organization rejects ‘conversion’ therapy because of the physical and mental health harm it causes. It is proven to lead toward higher instances of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and even suicide.

“Healthcare professionals are taught to ‘do no harm’, yet all the evidence shows that conversion therapy cases great harm, including increasing risk for depression, anxiety, substance usage, and suicidal ideation. Conversion therapy is masquerading as a healthcare option, when in actual fact, it causes great risk to public health,” said Adrian Shanker, Executive Director of Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center. “Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center has been leading the effort to end conversion therapy in the Lehigh Valley — first in Allentown, then in Reading, and now in Bethlehem — because LGBT youth deserve high-quality healthcare, not discredited junk-science.”

“With this ordinance, Bethlehem follows Reading, State College, Pittsburgh, Allentown, and Philadelphia in banning ‘conversion’ therapy, however it continues to be legal elsewhere in Pennsylvania,” said John Dawe, Interim Executive Director of Equality Pennsylvania.

“Tonight we celebrate this remarkable accomplishment by the Bradbury Sullivan LGBT Center and strong leaders in Bethlehem.  We also call on the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Governor Tom Wolf, and municipal leaders across the state to take action to ban this horrific and often torturous practice in all corners of the Commonwealth,” Dawe added.

Elected leaders in Harrisburg have introduced House Bill 1177 and Senate Bill 44, which would ban ‘conversion’ therapy statewide, but Republican committee members have held them up for more than a year.

EDITORIAL NOTE: The single quotes surrounding the word ‘conversion’ when used as ‘conversion’ therapy are intentional and should be used whenever the phrase appears in this official release.


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