PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Pennsylvania lawmakers and community activists gathered at the State House on Tuesday to watch Gov. Tom Wolf sign an executive order protecting LGBTQ Pennsylvanians from conversion therapy.
He is also calling for a statewide ban on the practice, something Carla Christopher Wilson said she survived.
"It involved being held in a lightless room, the size of a closet, pressed to the floor by more hands than I could count," Wilson, a member of the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs, said with emotion.
She recounted how as a youth, she confided in a Bible study leader, describing a crush she had on a fellow student. She said she was sent to a week-long out-of-state retreat where she underwent conversion therapy.
"I'm still ashamed to admit that it didn't even take the whole week for them to break me,” Wilson said.
"I begged any human or any God that would listen, to save me, even change me if they would make it stop, but I did survive."
"Conversion therapy is widely rejected by medical and scientific communities, because It is a bad and traumatic practice based on junk science that harms the very people it’s supposed to help,” Wolf said.
He explained his executive order will do three things.
"First, it will direct the commonwealth agencies under my jurisdiction to do everything in their power to discourage conversion therapy in the commonwealth. Second, it will direct agencies to take steps to actively promote evidence-based medical treatment for LGBTQ communities and individuals that is actually supported by scientific and medical communities,” he said.
“Third, it will direct agencies to make updates to policies and procedures to better support LGBTQ employees and the Pennsylvanians that we serve.”
Wolf said that to fully ban conversion therapy and the damage it causes, the General Assembly needs to take action and pass proposed legislation to protect Pennsylvanians.
"Bills to do just that have been introduced, and they stalled,” said Wolf.
“I'm calling on the General Assembly to join me in taking action to protect Pennsylvanians against conversion therapy because all of our youth deserves to grow up in a commonwealth that accepts and respects them.”
Wolf signed a bill in July that updated the criminal code to remove language barring homosexuality.
In June, he also vetoed a bill passed in both houses of the General Assembly that would prevent transgender girls and women from participating in girls and women's sports.