Pennsylvania Executive Order Protects LGBTQ+ Youth, Families, and Taxpayers from Conversion Therapy

In the state of Pennsylvania, research by Born Perfect has uncovered at least 131 conversion therapy providers. 32 of these providers are licensed mental health providers who violate their profession’s ethical and professional standards of care.

Thirteen municipalities in the state have responded to this potential for abuse by passing local ordinances to protect youth from conversion therapy. But until now, there has been no statewide protection.

Today, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed an executive order protecting these youth from sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) change efforts, protecting taxpayers from misuse of state funds by harmful and unscrupulous mental health providers.

Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf signs executive order
Video: Gov. Wolf signs the executive order

Born Perfect, the survivor-led legal effort to end conversion therapy, strongly supports this executive order.

“Governor Wolf is taking a critical step to protect LGBTQ minors across the state of Pennsylvania. LGBTQ kids and their families are targeted by so-called therapists causing lifelong harm,” said Mathew Shurka, a conversion therapy survivor and chief strategist for Born Perfect. “This executive order demonstrates that our political offices have the power to protect our youth and it is their responsibility to do so. We are sincerely grateful to Governor Wolf.”

The governor’s bold and courageous order:

  • directs state agencies to seek every avenue to protect LGBTQ minors from harm
  • bars the use of state resources for discredited SOGI change efforts
  • discourages private insurance coverage for conversion therapy
  • ensures training for child welfare staff and contracted providers to support LGBTQ youth and their families
  • improves support for state employees seeking gender-affirming care; and
  • sets the stage for state licensing boards to discipline health professionals who violate ethical and professional standards.

The executive order explicitly blocks the misuse of Pennsylvania Medical Assistance Program and Children’s Health Insurance Program funds to inflict conversion therapy upon youths. It also prohibits young people in state care from being sent to a therapist who would subject them to further trauma and abuse.

Extensive research shows that youth who are subjected to conversion therapy are at a dramatically increased risk of suicide, depression, and other serious harms. Professional licensing boards across the United States affirm that, besides being ineffective, conversion therapy is neither ethical nor safe and should not be used on minors under any circumstances.

Pennsylvania is the first state since mid-2021 to pass state-wide protection from SOGI change efforts. The last state to pass a law against conversion therapy was Virginia in 2020; four states subsequently enacted executive orders or regulations against conversion therapy in June and July 2021. All told, 25 states and more than 130 municipalities have enacted protective measures.

“We applaud Governor Wolf for his leadership in prioritizing the health and safety of Pennsylvanians,” said Shannon Minter, Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which sponsors Born Perfect. “More than 20 states have taken action to protect minors from the harm caused by sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts. Conversion therapy has been condemned by every leading medical and mental health professional organization in the country. This order ensures that taxpayer dollars cannot be used to pressure LGBTQ youth to change who they are. Many of these youth have already faced family rejection for being LGBTQ; they deserve safety and respect.”

“This is a huge step forward for the health and safety of LBTQ young people in Pennsylvania,” Shurka added. “We hope that even more governors will take note and enact similar measures to ensure that no state funds are being misused to pay for this deadly practice.”

Born Perfect is a survivor-led program created by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) in 2014 to end conversion therapy by passing laws across the country that protect LGBT children and young people, fighting in courtrooms to ensure their safety, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by these dangerous practices.