Central PA's LGBT News Source


City Human Relations Commission chair chimes in on proposed resolution


“… A good step forward” is how Harrisburg Human Relations Commission chair Russ Boggs describes efforts by Harrisburg City Council to take a stand on "conversion therapy".

The Central Voice reported on Oct. 24 that Harrisburg City Council member Ben Allatt was leading an effort to have Pennsylvania’s capitol city take a position on the therapy which is discredited by the American Psychiatric Association and a long list of professional mental health organizations. Allatt has initiated a discussion in city council that could lead to a ban or a resolution of the practice, depending on the legal ins and outs of laws governing Harrisburg’s Third Class City status.

HHRC chair Boggs told Central Voice “Conversion therapy, reparative therapy, otherwise known as ‘pray the gay away’ is a spectrum of practices that aim to change, alter, modify, or eradicate a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or behaviors.  

"The Harrisburg Human Relations Commission's (HHRC) nine commissioners and staff liaison support City Council Vice President Ben Allatt in this action (via a resolution) to make this inclusive policy statement. This is a good first step toward prohibiting this so-called therapy. The next step being an ordinance, which includes penalties, for violations.”

“This practice is not based on science,” Allatt told Central Voice. "It hurts people. As other communities have acted, I want Harrisburg to discuss conversion therapy too. Conversion therapy focuses on the repression of your feelings.” Allatt told Central Voice he knows because when in his 20s he had enrolled in a form of the controversial therapy. “Outside the LGBT community, not many people really understand what individuals experience under the hurtful rigors of conversion therapy,” he said.

There are no known or expected costs to the city for instituting a position stating its opposition to the therapy.

Allatt expects the process to move quickly with final passage of a measure by year’s end. As of July 3, 2018, there were eight Pennsylvania municipalities that have acted on the controversial form of intervention: Reading, Allentown, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Doylestown, State College and Yardley Borough.