New York is now the 15th state to ban sexual orientation "conversion therapy" for minors. The state legislature voted Tuesday, and the bill passed 54 to seven in the Senate and 123 to three in the Assembly, according to NBC News.
Conversion therapy laws prohibit licensed mental-health practitioners from subjecting minors to treatment that aims to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. For years, scientific and human rights organizations have discredited conversion therapy for the psychological harm it causes participants, including higher instances of depression, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation.
In 2007, the American Psychological Association established a task force to investigate sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) and concluded that such efforts are unsuccessful and dangerous. The APA reported that the appropriate therapeutic intervention for someone seeking SOCE instead "involves therapist acceptance, support and understanding of clients and the facilitation of clients' active coping, social support and identity exploration and development, without imposing a specific sexual orientation identity outcome."
The New York bill, which Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign this week, comes as part of a larger LGBTQ rights push for the state. The same day, the legislature also passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which aims to protect transgender and non-gender-conforming people from discrimination by adding gender expression to human rights and hate crime laws.
"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 Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie 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."
Cuomo signed an executive order in 2016 that partially restricted conversion therapy by blocking insurance and Medicaid coverage of conversion treatments. However, according to Into, practitioners of conversion treatments likely don't report them on paper, and such treatments may very well have been covered by insurance or Medicaid despite Cuomo's order.
Under the new bill, any mental-health professional found to be in violation of the ban will be subject to penalties for professional misconduct.
New York follows 14 other states and Washington, D.C., in banning conversion therapy. Six states have laws banning conversion therapy at a local level, but do not prohibit it statewide. There are still 29 states without any conversion therapy laws.
The Williams Institute issued a report in January of 2018 estimating that 698,000 U.S. adults ages 18 to 59 have undergone conversion therapy at some point in their lives—350,000 of them as adolescents.
The report also estimated that 20,000 teenagers ages 13 to 17 would receive conversion therapy before the age of 18 in the then-41 states where it was still legal. Since five more states have since taken action to prohibit conversion therapy statewide, that number may now be lower.