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New York legislators introduce LGBT “conversion therapy” ban

Conversion therapy cases

By Scottie Thomaston New York state seal

Legislators in New York have introduced a bill this week to ban so-called “conversion therapy” for LGBT people. California and New Jersey have also taken up the issue in recent months. Conversion therapy is widely discredited and considered to be ineffective. In fact, a noted psychiatrist who undertook a controversial study purporting to show that the therapy is effective has recently rejected his past work and has issued an apology to the LGBT community. And just last week, a former leader of the “ex-gay” movement, a group of people who claim to have “overcome” their sexual orientation, has renounced his past beliefs in the efficacy of conversion therapy.

Huffington Post reports that New York’s legislation is based on California’s ban. That law is currently being reviewed by federal courts, where proponents of conversion therapy are arguing that it is a form of speech, which should be constitutionally protected. The legal challenge to California’s ban is not affecting the chances of passage in New York:

Despite the unresolved legal challenge, two New York state lawmakers from New York City, Sen. Michael Gianaris and Sen. Deborah Glick, both progressive Democrats, said the time was right to propose a ban.

“There are often challenges to any manner of legislation that is protecting of the LGBT community and you can’t sit on your hands and wait until things get resolved somewhere else,” said Glick, who became the first openly gay legislator in New York in 1990.

But the challengers of the ban may have an uphill battle if the legislature passes it: the Ninth Circuit panel taking up the challenge to California’s ban in its preliminary stages seemed skeptical that the law is anything more than a permitted regulation of the medical profession, and the panel seemed somewhat dubious about the free speech claims raised. And in New Jersey, even the state’s Republican governor, who may seek the party’s nomination for president in 2016, has said he opposes conversion therapy and believes sexual orientation is determined at birth. It’s hard to imagine New York would be any more accepting of conversion therapy, and it seems unlikely that the Second Circuit (which is where any federal court challenge to New York’s proposed ban would ultimately end up) would be inclined to strike down the ban. In Edith Windsor’s challenge to Section 3 of DOMA, the Second Circuit issued an opinion in favor of Windsor.

The bill was introduced by the New York senate’s only openly gay lawmaker.

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