Republican governor candidate calls Pennsylvania conversion therapy ban ‘disgusting’

In this ptogoraph, Doug Mastriano talks into a microphone

A Republican gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania has denounced efforts to “discourage” the dangerous conversion therapy.

Speaking to conservative talk show radio station News Talk 103.7 FM on Thursday (25 August), Doug Mastriano criticised governor Tom Wolf and his Democratic contender Josh Shapiro for opposing the practice.

Earlier in August, Wolf signed an emphatic executive order banning “traumatic” conversion therapy, directing state agencies to prevent conversion therapy and instead promote evidence-based therapies that support LGBTQ+ people.

State senator Mastriano said that preventing young LGBTQ+ from being subjected to a practice the United Nations considers akin to torture is a bad thing, somehow.

“This is disgusting to me,” he told host Michele Jansen, “where bureaucrats like Tom Wolf and Josh Shaprio think it’s OK to come in and threaten parents and therapists because their kids might be confused.”

Teachers are apparently to blame for this, the retired US Army colonel said, given they have “graphic, pornographic books laid out”.

Mastriano has spent months running on a furious far-right message where everything from masks to trans rights apparently poses a risk to America.

His opponent, current state attorney general Shaprio, sees things a little differently. Unlike Mastriana, he fully supports Wolf’s conversion therapy ban and protecting LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians from discrimination and harm.

Governor Tom Wolf attends the ByHeart infant formula facility ribbon cutting

Governor Tom Wolf. (Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for ByHeart)

“As governor, I’ll pass nondiscrimination in Pennsylvania, ban conversion therapy practices for minors, and invest in mental health resources for youth,” Shapiro tweeted in May.

He added: “LGBTQ+ rights are human rights.”

Wolf wrote in his order: “Conversion therapy is a traumatic practice based on junk science that actively harms the people it supposedly seeks to treat.

“This discriminatory practice is widely rejected by medical and scientific professionals and has been proven to lead to worse mental health outcomes for LGBTQIA+ youth subjected to it. This is about keeping our children safe from bullying and extreme practices that harm them.”

Shapiro is enjoying a seven per cent lead over Mastrianao ahead of the election for governor in November, polls show.

Mastriano’s remarks fall into a legacy of the Republican nominee spewing right-wing, often conspiratorial opinions. Throwing his weight behind everything from Donald Trump’s debased election fraud claims to arguing that climate catastrophe is a “thereby”.

For decades, Mastriano has targeted the LGBTQ+ community. He wrote his Master’s thesis in 2001 on a hypothetical “left-wing Hitlerian putsch” caused by “the depredations of the country’s morally debauched civilian leaders”, including the “insertion of homosexuality in the military”, The Washington Post reported.

Mastriano, often joined at campaign rallies by anti-LGBTQ+ Florida governor Ron DeSantis, has been vocal about his opposition to marriage equalitysame-sex adoption and protecting trans people under federal anti-discrimination laws.

He pledged in his election night address to crack down on “critical race theory” and ban trans women from women’s sports – a policy that Wolf vetoed in July.