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Wolf called on state legislators to follow the lead of cities like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Allentown and enact a full statewide ban on the practice.

Nationwide, 13% of LGBTQIA+ youth are subjected to conversion therapy, which is defined as any emotional or physical therapy used to “cure” or “repair” a person’s attraction to the same sex, or their gender identity and expression.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order Tuesday to protect LGBTQIA+ Pennsylvanians from this harmful practice.

“Conversion therapy is causing horrific consequences for the mental health and well-being of a generation of young LGBTQIA+ individuals,” Wolf said. “But there is something very simple that we can all do to help. We can stand up and tell LGBTQIA+ youth that we hear them and we accept them exactly as they are. “

The executive order directs state agencies to:

  • Discourage conversion therapy in the state
  • Take steps to actively promote evidence-based best practices for LGBTQIA+ individuals that are supported by the scientific and medical communities
  • Make updates to policies and procedures to better support LGBTQIA+ employees
  • Explore and implement all options to ensure state funds, programs, contracts, and other resources are not used for the purposes of providing, authorizing, endorsing, reimbursing for, or referring for conversion therapy, to the extent permitted by law

The American Psychiatric Association opposes conversion therapy or any practice “that is based on the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or is based on the a prior assumption that the patient should change his or her homosexual orientation.”

According to a study from the Trevor Project study, LGBTQIA+ youth who underwent conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide in the past year. Researchers found that when they accounted for the harms caused by conversion therapy – including negative mental health outcomes and substance use – conversion therapy costs the nation $9.23 billion each year.

A 2019 study from the UCLA Williams Institute estimated that 73,000 LGBTQIA+ youth will be subjected to conversion therapy before they turn 18 – including 16,000 youth who will receive conversion therapy from a licensed health care professional.

“I want LGBTQIA+ youth and individuals across Pennsylvania to know that I stand with you. I see you, I respect you and I support you. My administration will continue to support policies to keep children safe from bullying and harmful practices.”

In announcing the executive order, Wolf called on the state legislature to enact a full ban statewide.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have banned the therapy. In Pennsylvania, Allegheny County, as well as Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Allentown, Reading, Scranton, State College, Yardley, Bellefonte, Bethlehem, Erie, Scranton, Newtown, and Middletown Township have all banned conversion treatment.