New York bans controversial ‘gay conversion’ therapy

The State Legislature also passes bill allowing offences motivated by biases on gender identity and expression to be prosecuted as a hate crime

Sarah Harvard
New York
Thursday 17 January 2019 00:06 GMT
A woman wears a rainbow scarf symbolising LGBTQ pride
A woman wears a rainbow scarf symbolising LGBTQ pride (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

The New York state legislature has passed a bill prohibiting licensed mental health professionals from conducting gay conversion therapy on children.

Governor Andrew Cuomo will sign the bill into law in the nex few days week, which would make New York the 15th state, plus the District of Colombia, to ban the widely-discredited practice. Others include Delaware, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Hawaii.

“New York has a reputation for diversity and inclusion and the Assembly Majority is committed to maintaining that reputation and protecting the rights of others,” New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Everyone has a right to live their life free from hostility and exclusion, and our youth deserve support in discovering their identity in a way that promotes happiness and positive mental health.”

In 2009, the American Psychological Association (APA) condemned gay conversion therapy in a report, saying that the practice treats “homosexuality as a mental disorder, a concept that has been rejected by the mental health professions for more than 35 years.”

The Assembly’s statement on the bill refers to the APA and added that conversion therapy can “pose critical health risks to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people ranging from confusion and depression, to substance abuse and suicide.”

“New York has a compelling interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of minors, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth,” the bill reads in part, “and in protecting its minors against exposure to serious harms caused by sexual orientation change efforts.”

In addition to outlawing gay conversion therapy, the State Legislature also passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) banning “discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression in considerations of employment, education, credit and housing.”

The bill includes a provision that offences involving biases with motivated by gender identity or expression could be prosecuted as a hate crime.

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Democratic assembly member Richard Gottfried said GENDA was able to pass largely due to the New York Senate’s newly-elected Democratic majority.

“The Assembly has passed the bill 11 times, but the Senate’s Republican Majority refused to let the bill have a floor vote,” Mr Gottfried said in a statement. “Today, the new Democratic Majority has joined us in protecting the rights of New Yorkers regardless of gender identity or expression.”

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