State College

State College bans LGBTQ conversion therapy for minors

Conversion therapy is legal in Centre County. This group is trying to change that.

Rylie Cooper, interviewed in June, is a 19-year-old sophomore at Penn State. She’s also the co-founding chair of Front & Centre—a pro LGBTQ+ group. The group's main goal is to stop conversion therapy, a practice that is still legal in Centre Count
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Rylie Cooper, interviewed in June, is a 19-year-old sophomore at Penn State. She’s also the co-founding chair of Front & Centre—a pro LGBTQ+ group. The group's main goal is to stop conversion therapy, a practice that is still legal in Centre Count

Conversion therapy is now illegal in the borough.

Borough Council voted unanimously Monday night to bar the practice — which aims to convert someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression — on individuals younger than 18.

Councilman Dan Murphy said he wanted to make some things clear to LGBTQ youths: “One, anyone’s attempts to fix or repair you is a reflection of how broken they are, not how broken you are. And two, you are loved, you are worthy and you are whole. I am thankful that you are here, and I’m thankful that you’re a part of this community.”

Those who spoke in support of the conversion therapy ban ordinance said that the practice is damaging, horrific and medieval. There’s also no credible science to back it.

“We are here today because we are a community with passion, empathy and compassion — a community which believes the American dream pertains to everybody in this country and which believes that LGBTQA people deserve as much justice as the next person,” said Penn State student Anthony Zarzycki, who serves as treasurer for LGBTQA rights organization Front and Centre.

With council’s decision, State College joins nine states, Washington, D.C., and various communities across the nation, including several in Pennsylvania, that have already banned conversion therapy.

Councilman David Brown said the practice is “destructive, toxic and abusive.”

But, Brown said he was “troubled” by the ordinance for several reasons, including that it’s not comprehensive enough because it doesn’t specifically include religious figures, like pastoral counselors or ministers, who use conversion therapy.

A direct attack on religious freedoms is unlikely to survive if somebody challenges the text of the ordinance, borough Solicitor Terry Williams said. The generalized language used in the ordinance — “any unlicensed individual or those licensed in other jurisdictions” — is designed to get to that.

Brown also said he’s curious about what need there is for the ordinance in the borough, because he hasn’t learned of anywhere that it’s being practiced.

For “an LGBTQ youth, it is the possibility that this exists that is threatening,” Murphy said. “That is what does the damage.”

Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619, @SarahRafacz

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