Philadelphia could join eight other U.S. cities, including Cincinnati and Seattle, that have banned so-called “gay conversion therapy” for minors.
Also called “aversion” or “reparative therapy,” the goal is to change a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation, or to “cure” someone of his or her feelings of attraction for members of the same sex.
The practice has been discredited by most medical professionals, New Jersey banned it for minors in 2013.
A bill introduced in Philadelphia City Council Thursday would allow the city to revoke commercial licenses and impose up to $2,000 in fines on mental health providers who use the practice on anyone under the age of 18.
Nellie Fitzpatrick, Philadelphia’s director of LGBT affairs, said it’s not clear how widespread the practice is in the city.
“These aren’t things where somebody will hang their shingle out and say, ‘Hey, I practice this completely denounced practice that actually damages and harms children,'” she said. “But we do know these types of things are occurring because we know so many people who have survived or experienced these types of things throughout their history, whether in the basement of a church or in a place where somebody is licensed to practice.”
Fitzpatrick said most LGBT young people who have experienced conversion therapy are also rejected from their families, which can lead them to feel depressed or to commit suicide.
Pittsburgh City Council has advanced a similar bill to Philadelphia’s. Since passing its ban in 2013, New Jersey’s law has survived multiple attempts to challenge it in court.