BURN!: NY State Lawmaker Proposes ‘PENCE’ Bill Banning Gay Conversion Therapy

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In a brilliant “burn” Patrick Burke, a legislator in New York’s Erie County, proposed a bill this week that would ban gay conversion therapy for minors. The proposed law which would only affect Burke’s county, which includes the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area. The law is named the Prevention of Emotional Neglect and Childhood Endangerment—or PENCE, for short.

Said Burke:

Conversion therapy is an abomination. It is clearly abuse. It’s brainwashing. It does real damage. Even calling it conversion therapy takes the edge off of what it really is.

The Vice President-elect has been a supporter of this, and he’s earned the name. People need to remember this. Mike Pence’s views are extreme. I don’t want them to become normalized. This isn’t normal—none of this is OK. We have work to do.

During his campaign for Congress in 2000, Pence’s platform stated that funds for HIV prevention and care should be redirected toward conversion therapy rather than programs that “celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus”:

“Congress should support the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”

Conversion therapy—”counseling” that uses psychological, spiritual or physical methods to try to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity—is currently banned in five states: New Jersey, California, Oregon, Illinois and Vermont, as well as in the District of Columbia.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo introduced an executive order in February that banned insurance coverage of conversion therapy as well as prohibiting the practice in all facilities falling under the jurisdiction of the New York State Office of Mental Health. Cuomo’s executive actions came after a statewide bill banning conversion therapy passed in the state assembly but failed to gain traction in the state senate.

Burke hopes if his bill passes in the Erie County Legislature, it could have a ripple effect.

“This could have ramifications throughout at least New York state,”

Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, writer, blogger and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Advocate, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, Raw Story, and The Huffington Post

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