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Erie County in Western New York will start debating a new piece of legislation this December that aims to locally ban the harmful practices of “conversion therapy,” which falsely claims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity with a series of mostly discredited treatments, including psychological abuse and psychotropic medication.
The law’s name also has a message. It’s called PENCE: Prevention of Emotional Neglect and Childhood Endangerment.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence is well-known for his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and advocacy for conversion therapy. As governor of Indiana, he has supported government funding to institutions “which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” He has also discouraged government support of the Ryan White Care Act, a federally funded program for people living with HIV/AIDS, saying that supporting it would mean funding organizations that “celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus.”
Currently, conversion therapy for minors is banned in Oregon, California, Illinois, Vermont, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., and condemned by the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, American College of Physicians, American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, World Psychiatric Association, and more. The American Psychiatric Association notes that conversion therapy rarely has the intended effect and can put “patients” at risk of depression anxiety, self-destructive behavior, and self-hatred.
Mehak Anwar is a reporter whose work focuses on LGBTQ rights, intersectional feminism, and race. Her byline has appeared in Bustle and the Huffington Post.