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Allegheny County council to consider conversion therapy ban

Written by An-Li Herring/WESA | Mar 5, 2019 4:04 AM
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Councilors John DeFazio (second from left) and Paul Klein (center) are the primary sponsors of a bill that would ban conversion therapy for minors. (An-Li Herring/WESA)

(Pittsburgh) -- A proposal to ban conversion therapy for minors is set to come before Allegheny County Council Tuesday. The therapy, which targets gay and transgender people, is intended to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

Critics say the practice, which has long been opposed by professional medical organizations, causes severe mental health problems.

"It's hard to find a credible national organization in the mental health field that has not challenged this or really taken it on," said one of the bill's primary sponsors, Councilor Paul Klein (D-Squirrel Hill).

Klein said he wasn't aware of anyone using conversion therapy within the county's boundaries, but said the measure was "proactive." 

He added that he's heard complaints that the proposed ban could violate the rights of parents who want the treatment for their children. But he said children need protection.

"We don't want those who would decide that they are going to open their doors or hang up a shingle and offer this kind of service [to think] this is something that we believe is credible or a practice that ought to be engaged in," Klein said.

There's no enforcement mechanism in the proposal, but Klein noted that the county could sue those who offer conversion therapy.

Council president John DeFazio (D-Shaler) is also a primary sponsor of the bill, which comes after Bethany Hallam, who is challenging DeFazio's reelectionurged him to back it last month.

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