Harrisburg will not be joining the eight cities and boroughs across Pennsylvania that have banned conversion therapy, but it has introduced a resolution that will officially oppose the practice.
Harrisburg’s city council, all Democrats with seven members, introduced the measure Oct. 23 to put the city’s opposition to conversion therapy on the record. Ben Allat, council vice president, who worked with Harrisburg’s Law Bureau to draft the resolution, told PGN the bureau recommended that the resolution take the form of an opposition instead of a ban “because of legal ramifications” around enforcing it.
“If it were me personally, I would love to have an outright ban, but there are limitations to how far we can go. One of the unique things that Philadelphia has that Harrisburg doesn’t is that the city can pass legislation that supersedes what the state law says. We don’t have that same ability. We have larger parameters to work under in order to do it,” he said.
Allat added that he and a committee of community members will work on the resolution in December and discuss the possibility of passing. He said he hopes the measure is passed by the end of the year.
Amanda Arbour, executive director of the LGBT Community Center of Central PA in Harrisburg, said the proposed measure “doesn’t have the enforcement power of actual legislation, but it’s an important first step for the city to go on record and say that we oppose conversion therapy. It’s something that’s harmful to our community as a whole but particularly for LGBTQ youth.”
Conversion therapy on minors has been banned in Philadelphia, Allentown, Reading, Pittsburgh, State College, Yardley and Doylestown. Allat’s experience with being exposed to conversion therapy in his early 20s led him to author the resolution.
“I don’t think the average Joe understands what it entails,” he said, adding he believes Harrisburg’s formal opposition to the practice will raise more awareness of its damaging effects.
Arbour noted that “in a time where there’s a lot of fear and attacks on our community from the federal government, this would send an important message that the city of Harrisburg is seeing and valuing our LGBTQ-plus communities.”