New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced regulations Saturday aimed at curbing the pseudoscientific practice of “conversion therapy” — which its practitioners claim can change a person’s sexual orientation. Under the plan, healthcare insurers in New York would be prohibited from covering the cost of such therapy for anyone under the age of 18, and mental health facilities under state jurisdiction would be banned from offering it to minors.
“Conversion therapy is a hateful and fundamentally flawed practice that is counter to everything this state stands for,” Cuomo said in a statement. “New York has been at the forefront of acceptance and equality for the LGBT community for decades — and today we are continuing that legacy and leading by example. We will not allow the misguided and the intolerant to punish LGBT young people for simply being who they are.”
Conversion therapy, through a mix of counseling and psychotherapy, aims to eliminate or suppress homosexuality. The practice, which has been refuted and denounced by doctors and leading medical groups, has “serious potential to harm young people because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder,” according to the American Psychological Association.
Political opposition to the practice has been growing in the U.S. in recent years and last April, President Barack Obama voiced concerns over its use.
At least four other states — Oregon, California, Illinois and New Jersey — as well as Washington, D.C. already have laws banning its use on minors.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an LGBT civil rights organization, praised Cuomo’s decision, calling him “one of the LGBT community’s strongest allies.”
“No young person should be coerced or subjected to this dangerous so-called therapy, which has been linked to youth substance abuse, depression, homelessness, and even suicide,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “With leaders like Governor Cuomo, we're on on our way to putting an end to this horrible practice.”