Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s 2000 congressional campaign website stated: “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
Erie County, N.Y., legislator Patrick Burke (D) wants to stop gay conversion therapy from ever happening where he lives, especially if it involves gay children.
Burke has failed twice before to win approval for a ban on gay conversion therapy for minors in Erie County.
But he hasn’t quit trying.
Thinking like a good marketer, Burke believes he has found a recognizable product name that should guarantee success.
Gay conversion therapy, sometimes known as reparative therapy, involves psychotherapy methods that are intended to change a person’s sexual orientation or even gender identity.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights has charged that conversion therapy has involved harsh methods like electroshock therapy and even castration.
The therapy has been discredited by major medical associations.
Five states — New Jersey, Vermont, Illinois, Oregon and California — and the District of Columbia already ban gay conversion therapy for minors.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed an executive order in February that stops health insurance providers from paying for conversion therapy. The order also limits the ability of mental health organization to use it on minors.
But gay conversation therapy is still legal in the state of New York. Burke believes when a minor is subjected to it, the treatment becomes child abuse.
“I had reserved hope that the state would come to its senses and the Senate would do the right thing,” he said, “but clearly that’s not going to happen.”
So one month after his second attempt died in an Erie County legislative committee, Burke has slapped Mike Pence’s name on the bill through the use of a creative acronym, and resubmitted the same proposal.
Burke, with a tip of his hat toward America’s soon-to-be vice president, has named the legislation the Prevention of Emotional Neglect and Child Endangerment bill, or the PENCE bill.
“Doing something like that gives people the opportunity to dismiss it as a gimmick,” he said. “But we’re in such an extreme time, and his views, again, are so extreme, I think it’s rightfully named.”
The acronym has produced national publicity for him and his legislation.
“There’s no way Pence didn’t hear about it,” Burke told the Buffalo News.
For the record, Vice President-elect Pence’s spokesman Marc Lotter told the New York Times the Republican does not support gay conversion therapy. Lott claimed the statement on Pence’s 2000 campaign website had been misinterpreted.
But during the Democratic National Convention in July, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom accused Pence of having “advocated for diverting taxpayer dollars to so-called conversion therapy.”
Politifact published an article two days later that concluded there was no evidence “Pence has walked back his stance on public funding for conversion therapy.”
Well, no matter where Pence’s head and heart are on this issue, Burke has no problem using the name of the former governor of Indiana to accomplish this mission.
“I think it is an abusive practice. Some of the things that are actually carried out in conversion therapy are pretty disturbing,” Burke told WBFO-FM.
Okay. But why would Republicans block Burke? Are they monsters?
Erie County Legislature GOP Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo said he doesn’t like subjecting children to gay conversion therapy either. And he certainly would stand against it, if it ever actually was used on a minor.
“I am 100 percent opposed to this brand of ‘therapy,’” said Lorigo.”But I am also opposed to attempting to legislate every single issue we can think of, especially a law banning something that has never actually happened in Erie County.”
Let’s say that is a given. It isn’t being done in New York State’s Erie County.
But what about Pittsburgh, Pa.?
Pittsburgh City Councilman Dan Gilman and Council President Bruce Kraus have introduced legislation to stop the use of gay conversion therapy on minors in their city.
“The city of Pittsburgh bears responsibility to protect all of its residents and this legislation defends LGBTQIA+ youth against the destructive psychological and physical impact of forced conversion therapy,” Councilman Dan Gilman said in a written statement.
LGBTQIA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer, Intersex and Asexual people. The + sign refers to any and all other orientations that might have been missed in the acronym.
“Protecting LGBTQIA+ minors,” Council President Bruce Kraus said, “from those who would seek to rob the very essence of one’s being is foundational to this legislation.”