Philadelphia City Council will consider banning the use of "conversion therapy," a treatment meant to change a person's sexual orientation, on anyone under the age of 18.
"We're setting ourselves back in time to say anybody who is in the LGBTQ community, it's a medical issue and they can be fixed in some way," said Councilman Mark Squilla, the bill's sponsor.
Squilla introduced the legislation Thursday at Council's last session of 2016, as the body passed dozens of other bills before the holiday break. The bill will have a hearing in the new year.
Five states have already passed such bans, but legislation that would ban the practice in Pennsylvania stalled after being introduced in 2015. Pittsburgh City Council President Bruce Kraus, the city's first openly gay elected official, introduced a bill banning the practice last month.
Squilla said he has been considering the legislation since September 2015, when Pope Francis visited Philadelphia in connection to the World Meeting of Families. The conference included at least one exhibitioner who has supported the controversial practice, prompting criticism from advocates.
Squilla's legislation would ban the use of conversion therapy on those under the age of 18 by anyone licensed as a mental health provider under state law. It would not apply to therapies meant to provide support during a gender transition or support without the focus on changing sexual orientation.
Squilla said he is unsure if there are any professionals currently practicing conversion therapy in Philadelphia. He said he hopes the legislation will deter anyone thinking about opening such a business.
Council also took the following actions Thursday:
In response to complaints about predatory tow practices, it passed legislation that will require cars to be ticketed before they can be towed. The law currently requires only that tow operators take a picture of a car parked illegally before hauling it off. The owners of several tow truck companies spoke against the legislation Thursday, and as a compromise its sponsor, Councilwoman Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez, agreed to hold off on implementing the bill for 30 days to allow more time for discussion.
It adopted zoning rules for medical marijuana dispensaries and growing facilities, anticipating the forthcoming launch of Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program. The legislation would limit growing facilities to industrial areas. Dispensaries won't be allowed within 500 feet of schools. That is less restrictive than the 1,000 foot limit included in the state law, meaning Philadelphia's regulations will only be enforced if the state grants waivers.
It approved letting the city award contracts to the company it deems to be the "best value," a shift from the low-bid process that Mayor Kenney's office says will improve efficiency. Voters will have final say on the change when it is put before them on the May primary ballot.
Critics worry the shift will open the door to favoritism in the bidding process, concerns that nearly sank the legislation Thursday. Some Council members who appeared on the fence but ultimately voted for the legislation stressed the need for the new system to include robust safeguards.