The New York City Council has moved to reverse a 2017 ban on “conversion therapy” in order to prevent a Supreme Court challenge. According to the New York Times, Corey Johnson, the speaker of the Council — who is gay and HIV-positive — introduced the bill on Thursday.
“This was a painful decision that was made after leading LGBTQ advocates requested that the Council take this drastic step,” Johnson said in a statement, via Politico. “The sad reality is the courts have changed considerably over the last few years, and we cannot count on them to rule in favor of much-needed protections for the LGBTQ community. To be clear, all of us still believe this alleged ‘therapy’ is barbaric and inhumane, but repealing this law seemed to be the best path forward.”
Conversion therapy does not work — that’s been validated by the American Psychological Association — and it causes harm to LGBTQ+ folks. According to research conducted by San Francisco State University, LGBTQ+ individuals who are “highly rejected” by parents or caregivers were eight times more likely to have attempted suicide and six times more likely to report high levels of depression than LGBTQ+ individuals who were “not rejected” or “only a little rejected” by their families. Conversion therapy survivors have described undergoing physical, emotional, and psychological abuse and torture, including being electrically shocked and drugged.
The New York City law, passed in December 2017, prohibits consumers from being charged for “services intended to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” punishable by a fine of $1,000 for each violation. In January 2019, an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group called Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit challenging the ban, saying it violates free speech and religious freedom. That same month, New York state passed a law banning conversion therapy for minors.
According to Politico, Johnson said that LGBTQ advocates asked him to repeal the New York City law because they were worried that the lawsuit from Alliance Defending Freedom could have far-reaching ramifications. The New York state law will still protect minors from conversion therapy, and Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told Politico that adults can sue conversion therapy providers under the consumer fraud protection act.
“I’m heartened that the City Council pulled back a statute that could undermine efforts nationally to end conversion therapy because it might be viewed as overly broad,” State Senator Brad Hoylman, who sponsored the state law and is New York’s only out gay senator, told the New York Times. “The legal climate is less favorable at the federal level for the L.G.B.T.Q. community. We crafted the law specifically to pass a legal challenge because we knew this was an area that anti-L.G.B.T. legal forces were exploring.”
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