Shapiro Administration Announces Five State Boards Have Adopted New Policies Making Clear That Conversion Therapy on LGBTQ+ Minors is Harmful and Unprofessional

All five State Boards took action to protect Pennsylvania youth, warning that licensees who engage in conversion therapy may be subject to administrative discipline.

Harrisburg, PA – Affirming its support for the health and well-being of all Pennsylvanians and its commitment to protecting freedom in the Commonwealth, the Shapiro Administration announced that five relevant State Boards voted to adopt new policies condemning the discredited, pseudoscientific practice of conversion therapy in the Commonwealth. Today, the state board of Nursing joined the MedicineSocial Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors, Psychology and Osteopathic Medicine who all voted recently to adopt new Statements of Policy (SOP) that oppose the use of conversion therapy on minors in Pennsylvania.

“This decisive action makes clear that there is no place for the harmful, dangerous practice of conversion therapy here in our Commonwealth," said Governor Josh Shapiro. "We value real freedom here in Pennsylvania – and no matter what you look like, where you come from, who you pray to, or who you love, you should be able to express who you are and be free from harassment and discrimination. My Administration will continue working to make sure that everyone is protected, feels welcome, and can thrive in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” 

The new policies notify licensees that all five Boards consider the use of conversion therapy to be unprofessional, harmful conduct that may subject any licensee engaging in it to administrative discipline.

“These significant actions by the Boards only solidify the Shapiro Administration’s longstanding support of the health and wellbeing of all Pennsylvanians – in this case, the actions seeking to protect LGBTQ+ minors and those who care for and about them,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt. “Rejecting the discredited, pseudoscientific practice of conversion therapy in Pennsylvania is a worthwhile, pragmatic step, and I give my appreciation to all five Boards for adopting these Statement of Policies.”

Sometimes referred to as reparative therapy, sexuality counseling, or sexual orientation/gender identity change efforts, conversion therapy refers to any practice that seeks or purports to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Over the last month, we at the Governor’s Advisory Commission on LGBT Affairs have watched as each health-related licensing board in the Commonwealth voted to adopt new Statements of Policy denouncing and penalizing the dangerous practice of conversion therapy in Pennsylvania,” said Ashleigh Strange, Executive Director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on LGBTQ+ Affairs. “Since hateful rhetoric and pseudoscience still dominate the clinical experiences of many LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians, knowing that our state oversight boards saw fit to pass these protections is a small weight off of our shoulders. This is a solid step toward letting folks know that identifying as LGBTQ+ is not a disease or a crime in Pennsylvania. You have a safe place here.”

The Trevor Project – a national organization devoted to ending suicide among LGBTQ+ young people – told State Boards earlier this year that conversion therapy on minors remains an issue in the Commonwealth despite an August 2022 Executive Order from former Governor Tom Wolf protecting Pennsylvanians from the invalidated practice.

“We are thrilled to see the Shapiro Administration take action to protect LGBTQ+ young people from the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy,” said Troy Stevenson, Director of State Advocacy Campaigns at The Trevor Project.Research shows that young people who reported undergoing conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide in the past year. Especially as LGBTQ+ young people continue to be targeted by state lawmakers across the country, we are grateful to see these efforts to protect the health and safety of LGBTQ+ young people in Pennsylvania.”

Among the numerous national and global health associations that strongly oppose conversion therapy due to its lack of scientific evidence and its heightened risk of causing harm to minors are the following:

  • American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry
  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • American Academy of Nursing
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
  • American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists
  • American College of Physicians
  • American Medical Association
  • American Psychiatric Association
  • American Psychoanalytic Association
  • American Psychological Association
  • Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies
  • National Association of Social Workers
  • Pan American Health Organization
  • World Medical Association
  • World Psychiatric Association

The new SOPs will be effective upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

Anyone can file a complaint against a licensed professional engaging in unprofessional or harmful conduct like conversion therapy via the Department of State website.

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