Patrick Burke, a legislator for Erie County’s 7th district in Buffalo, introduced a bill this week that would ban LGBTQ conversion therapy practices for minors in the county, Time Warner Cable News reports. In a not-so-subtle nod to the anti-LGBTQ views of Vice President-elect Mike Pence, it’s called the Prevention of Emotional Neglect and Childhood Endangerment bill ― or PENCE.
When Pence ran for Congress in 2000, he backed federal funding for “institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior” ― a euphemism for the discredited, abusive techniques used to try to reverse homosexuality, particularly in teenagers.
Burke told Time Warner Cable News that the name has bothered some other Erie County legislators.
“I had some, maybe a few folks who were maybe a little upset about the acronym and thought I was just trying to be cute, but no. These are serious times that we live in,” he said.
Discrediting and eliminating gay conversion therapy, which often involves painful practices like electric shocks, has become a progressive priority in recent years as other barriers to LGBTQ equality have fallen.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed an executive order in February precluding insurance companies in the state from covering conversion therapy. At the same time, a bill to ban the practice altogether has stalled in the Republican-controlled New York State Senate. Five states have already banned conversion therapy: California, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont and New Jersey.
The Trump administration transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the PENCE bill.
Pence has a long history as a socially conservative lawmaker opposed to LGBTQ marriage equality and other rights. Under pressure from LGBTQ groups and businesses, he modified a religious freedom law he passed as governor of Indiana to preclude businesses from denying service to LGBTQ residents based on the business owners’ religious beliefs. LGBTQ residents of the Hoosier State still lack specific protection against all forms of targeted discrimination, however.