Senate introduces bill to ban ‘ex-gay’ therapy


Pennsylvania state Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Eighth Dist.) has introduced a bill that would ban conversion therapy for individuals under 18. Williams put forth Senate Bill 872 on April 18. The bill, which was first introduced by former Rep. Babette Josephs in the last session, would ban service providers from performing therapy to change a patient’s sexual orientation. Josephs’ bill eventually died without action; Williams’ bill would be the first of its kind in the state Senate. Williams said although the bill is new, the response has been positive and he hopes for bipartisan sponsorship. “The response has been fairly traditional, with members of the Democratic Party paying attention to it. There are no Republicans yet, but that is not to say that they won’t side on this.” Williams said with the plethora of bills that was introduced this session, the conversion-therapy proposal most likely won’t get on the floor until fall. The legislator said he was influenced by New Jersey’s move to approve a similar measure last month, adding the timing is right. “This type of therapy is outdated and it goes back to when one’s sexual orientation — when someone was homosexual other than heterosexual — was described as a mental disorder or abnormal. Hopefully as a society, we know that sexual orientation is not as narrow as we thought it was 10-30 years ago,” he said. Although Williams said the bill would not prohibit conversion-therapy counseling for gender transition, in future a similar bill could be introduced to protect transgender youth from the same harmful process. The bill currently has four co-sponsors, including Sens. LeAnna M. Washington (D-4th Dist.), Daylin Leach (D-17th Dist.), Jim Ferlo (D-38th Dist.) and Judith Schwank (D-11th Dist.). Staff at Williams’ office said Sen. Mike Stack (D-5th Dist.) would also co-sponsor the bill.