Conversion therapy for minors now banned in Erie County

Mar 5, 2018

A controversial treatment that is intended to change one's sexual orientation or gender identity is now illegal to practice on minors in Erie County. On Monday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz signed a local law banning conversion therapy on anyone under 18 years old.

Joining Poloncarz in the County Executive's office in the Rath Building were Legislators Patrick Burke, who sponsored the bill, Legislature Chairman Peter Savage and numerous advocates for the GBLTQ community.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz signs into effect a local law that bans the practice of conversion therapy on minors. The controversial practice intends to change one's sexual orientation or gender identity but critics say it poses a serious threat to the mental well-being of a child and has been discredited by numerous medical associations.
Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO

"There's very few times in politics where issues are black and white. Most of the time it's a grey area and you have to see both sides of it. This issue is black and white," said Burke, who noted the bill had lingered under the previous legislature majority. "It's right and wrong and we're on the right side of the issue."

Poloncarz expressed his full support for the local law, saying it's not an issue about religious freedom nor freedom of speech but rather an issue of protecting children.

"When we're talking about conversion therapy as a reparative therapy, we're talking about  therapies that have been proven over and over again by the medical community to be without any merit, but those that could have serious negative impacts on the psychological well-being of a child," Poloncarz said. 

The county executive added that it remains legal for adults to pursue the therapy if they so desire. 

Those caught attempting to perform conversion therapy on a minor in Erie County now face a fine of up to $1,000 or up to one year in jail.