New York considers bill banning “ex-gay” therapy for minors

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New York’s Senate is considering a bill, S4840-2013, that would ban “conversion” therapy that attempts to turn LGBT youths into heterosexuals.

Introduced by Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), New York’s only openly gay State Senator, the legislation would prohibit anyone under the age of eighteen from being subjected to treatments intended to change their sexual orientation.

According to the text of the bill, mental health providers who are found to be in violation of the law “shall be considered [guilty of]unprofessional conduct,” rendering them subject to “discipline by the licensing entity.”

The bill defines the therapies that would be banned for minors as “Sexual Orientation Change Efforts” (SOCE), meaning “efforts to change behaviors or gender identity or expression, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.” It goes on to say that not included are “psychotherapies that (A) provide acceptance, support, and understanding of clients or the facilitation of clients’ coping, social support and identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices; and (B) do not seek to change sexual orientation.”

The “ex-gay” movement, which claims homosexuality can be “cured” through religious-based therapy, has existed since the 1970s. Proof of its “success” is limited, with many spokespeople in the movement later retracting their claims of heterosexuality or being spotted in a gay venue. Critics deride it for only teaching people to suppress their feelings at the cost of their mental health; such programs have been directly linked to depression and suicide in participants.

In 2009, the American Psychological Association released an official report, titled “Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation,”  stating that it was “unlikely” that SOCE can achieve any of its stated goals, and that they “found that there was some evidence to indicate that individuals experienced harm… negative side effects included loss of sexual feeling, depression, suicidality, and anxiety.”

A spokesperson for Human Rights Campaign, Ellen Kahn, told 429Magazine that “Far too many gay and lesbian youth have been told that they can and should ‘change’ their sexual orientation and efforts to do so have only caused further harm to young people already in fragile relationships with their family and friends.  We applaud the efforts of the NY legislature… in finally putting an end to false claims by unethical practitioners who should be supporting and affirming our LGBT youth.”

In 2012, both California and New Jersey introduced similar bills; California’s is being challenged in court, while New Jersey’s recently had its second reading in the Senate after revisions.

429Magazine

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