Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Deborah Glick today announced the passage of legislation that would bar mental health professionals from participating in conversion therapy with patients under the age of 18 in an attempt to change or alter their sexual orientation (A.4958, Glick).
"Sexual orientation is neither a choice nor an illness, and it is dangerous to regard it as such," said Speaker Heastie "Conversion therapy poses a tremendous risk to the health and wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth and cannot be allowed to continue. Suggesting that sexual orientation can be changed or 'fixed' is unacceptable and defies sense and respect for human dignity. All young people in New York - and nationwide - should feel safe when speaking with mental health professionals, regardless of their sexual orientation."
"Conversion therapy is a shameful practice that is taking a toll on young New Yorkers," Glick said. "It simply adds to the existing stigma and reinforces prejudices that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth already fight to overcome. Mental health professionals should provide a nonjudgmental safe space, not cause emotional and psychological trauma for young people seeking care."
Conversion therapy and sexual orientation change efforts are widely regarded as unethical. A report by the American Psychological Association's Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation concluded that consequences of conversion therapy included, "depression, suicidality, and anxiety." Moreover, the American Psychiatric Association notes that the risks of conversion or reparative therapy include, "self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred."
The legislation would not only ban conversion therapy for minors, it would also hold licensed mental health professionals who ignore the ban accountable, providing that they be cited for unprofessional conduct and subject to sanctions on their license.