Tuesday December 19, 2017
Reading has joined dozens of other municipalities across the country by banning conversion therapy - a controversial therapy practice.
Conversion therapy, sometimes called reparative or affirmative therapy, is defined on the American Psychological Association's website as "counseling and psychotherapy aimed at eliminating or suppressing homosexuality." It can also be used to try to change a person's gender identity as well.
City Council passed the ordinance on a 6-0 vote Monday night. Councilwoman Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz was absent.
"Relief," Jocelyn Young, president of the LGBT Center of Greater Reading, said in response to council passing the ban. Young and Adrian Shanker, executive director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, were the ones who asked council to consider the legislation.
"It's one of those things I'm very happy about," Young said. "We've only been in existence for 18 months, so this is a huge feather in our caps."
Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Allentown and 24 other municipalities across the country have passed an ordinance banning conversion therapy on minors.
Nine states and the District of Columbia also have laws forbidding the practice.
There was one small change to the ordinance. Instead of having a council member serve on the board of appeals, which would have been a conflict, council added another licensed mental health professional to the board. The board of appeals now consists of three licensed mental health professionals and two private citizens.
Steve Costa, a clinically licensed social worker licensed to practice in Pennsylvania, addressed council asking that it not pass the ban.
"Advocates of therapy bans conflate any efforts to changing or exploring sexual orientation under the pejorative term 'conversion therapy,' as though such therapy was a religious exercise," Costa said. "Perhaps the most compelling reason to vote against the ordinance is to consider the real harm done in outlawing treatment to minors experiencing unwanted same-sex attraction resulting from molestation."
Costa argued that by passing the ban, people could not meet with "reparative therapists" who do not condone practices such as shaming and aversion - often associated with conversion therapy.
"Council members, do these Reading youths have the right to access the therapy of their choice?" Costa asked. "Should the licensed mental health providers compassionately serving these victims deserve to be run out of town? To say otherwise is to codify child abuse in the City of Reading."
Several members of council were proud Reading was going to pass the therapy ban.
"I will enthusiastically be supporting this," Councilman Christopher M. Daubert, a high school teacher, said before casting his vote. "I don't think our city youth have anything to fear in this being made illegal. I think what our city youth have to fear is bigotry. I've seen the results. For some of my former students it's been catastrophic."
Daubert's fellow council members Donna Reed and John Slifko voiced their support, too.
Reed said it will "save a lot of pain" and she "sees nothing but positive" in passing the ordinance.
"We have a problem here in Reading," Slifko said. "A certain part of our population is vulnerable to a practice that has been thoroughly debunked. I am so pleased to pass some kind of progressive legislation."
JEREMY LONG |
Jeremy Long covers the Reading School District for the Reading Eagle
Reading City Council bans conversion therapy