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New York state Assembly passes bill banning conversion therapy on minors for 3rd time

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Conversion therapy is a form of treatment that is designed to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual, usually through psychological means.

The New York state Assembly recently passed legislation banning the controversial practice of conversion therapy for minors.

Sponsored by Deborah Glick, the state’s Higher Education Committee chair, the bill would “prohibit mental health professionals from practicing conversion therapy with patients under the age of 18 for the purpose of changing their sexual orientation.” The bill was passed by a vote of 121 to 24.

Conversion therapy is a form of treatment that is designed to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual, usually through psychological means. The therapy has been widely discredited and dismissed as harmful by health professionals.

There are currently six states, along with the District of Columbia, that have banned conversion therapy on minors.

Robin Riley, a professor of women’s and gender studies at Syracuse University, said she understands the dangers of conversion therapy and what effects it can have on anyone, not just minors.

“People who are exposed to it end up feeling deep shame and self-loathing about an aspect of themselves that is unchangeable,” Riley said.

Riley is the director of the LGBT Studies program at SU and said the idea that conversion therapy is an acceptable practice is wrong, calling it “ineffective and cruel,” no matter what someone’s age is.

Glick’s bill, A.03977, was referred to the Assembly’s higher education committee in January, where it was checked for codes and read within the Assembly.

It has now been referred to the higher education committee within the Senate. This is not the first time, though, that a bill banning conversion therapy has reached the Senate’s higher education committee. Banning conversion therapy has been a topic of discussion within New York state politics for years.

In early 2015, Glick wrote a similar bill that would have banned conversion therapy. The Assembly passed this bill. However, it died in the Senate and returned to the Assembly in January 2016.

In February 2016, New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced executive actions that would ban public and private health care insurers from covering conversion therapy. This public endorsement drew a reaction from Glick.

“Once again the Governor will take an action to protect LGBT New Yorkers and make New York a safer and more welcoming state for all of us,” Glick said in a statement from Cuomo’s office. “I hope other leaders across the nation will be inspired to follow Governor Cuomo’s lead.”

Glick’s same bill was then passed again by the Assembly in May last year and introduced to the senate. However, it was not voted on and was referred to the Senate Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee.

Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter (NY-D) has supported Glick’s bill. Representing the 128th assembly district, which includes Syracuse, Hunter was not part of the Assembly during the vote in 2015, but she did vote in favor of the bill in 2016.

Hunter in an email said she supports the legislation “because individuals have a right to express their (inherent) sexual orientation.”

“A mental health professional who seeks to alter the orientation of an underage patient is contradicting decades of prevailing research that indicates that non-heterosexual orientation is not mental illness,” Hunter said.

The effect of conversion therapy is the primary reason Hunter voted in favor of banning it, she said. Referring to the work done by the American Psychological Association, Hunter said, “attempts to change sexual orientation can pose increased risks of depression, substance abuse, and suicide.”

Conversion therapy has been occurring for decades, but it grew popular as a practice in the late 20th century, through the work of Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, who was widely known as one of the founders of utilizing conversion therapy to change a person’s sexual orientation.

Nicolosi co-founded the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality in 1992. His ideas and works have received criticism from many health officials, including the American Psychiatric Association.

“Laws should be created that make practitioners of this barbaric practice subject to prosecution,” Riley, the director of the LGBT Studies program at SU, said.

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