Aug 17, 2022 - News

Wolf signs executive order restricting conversion therapy

Photo illustration of Philadelphia Governor Tom Wolf with lines radiating from him.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order on Tuesday to significantly restrict the use of conversion therapy in the state.

Why it matters: There is no scientific evidence to support the use of conversion therapy, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

  • The practice can lead to depression, anxiety and suicide.

The big picture: At least 20 other states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico have banned the practice.

What they're saying: "Conversion therapy is a traumatic practice based on junk science that actively harms the people it supposedly seeks to treat," Wolf said in a released statement.

State of play: While conversion therapy is uncommon in Philly, it is practiced elsewhere in the state, though isn't widely advertised, Jasper Liem, interim executive director at The Attic Youth Center, told Axios.

  • "Every credible association around mental health or physical health has discredited this practice," he said. "This kind of executive order signals to young folks that there are protections in place."

Details: Wolf's order is limited to state agencies, which directs them to:

  • Discourage conversion therapy in Pennsylvania.
  • Update policies and procedures to support LGBTQ+ employees and Pennsylvanians.

Plus: The Department of Human Services and other agencies will seek to ensure state funds, programs and resources are not used for conversion therapy.

The intrigue: Absent a new law passed in Harrisburg over the use of conversion therapy, any future governor can throw out Wolf's executive order with the stroke of a pen.

  • Voters head to the polls in November to elect a new governor, among other state and federal offices. Wolf is term limited and cannot run for reelection.
  • Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano is vying against state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat.

Of note: Republicans control both chambers in the State House and have been hostile to LGBTQ and transgender rights.


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