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Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York is taking steps to stop therapists from trying to change young people’s sexual orientation. A number of American states have recently taken steps to ban gay conversion therapy. Major mental health organizations have repudiated the techniques.
The new regulations wouldn’t apply to counseling that discusses but doesn’t try to change sexual orientation or gender identity. They would bar insurance coverage for conversion therapy for minors and prohibit mental health facilities from offering the therapies to minors.
“Conversion therapy is a hateful and fundamentally flawed practice (that punishes people) for simply being who they are,” said Cuomo.
Insurers will wonder whether the new regulations will obligate them to investigate whether any given mental health visit was for conversion therapy.
There are no firm figures on the extent of conversion therapy in the US but it is not rare for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths to undergo some sort of program aimed at changing their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
The American Psychological Association and other mental health groups say conversion therapy, sometimes called reparative therapy, wrongly treats being gay as a mental illness and may make young people feel ashamed, anxious and depressed. President Barack Obama’s administration last year called for it to be banned.
Chad Griffin of Human Rights Campaign welcomed the move. “No young person should be coerced or subjected to this dangerous so-called therapy.”
Supporters of the therapy say prohibiting it limits treatment options and undermines religious liberty.
California, Oregon, Illinois, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Cincinnati have now outlawed gay conversion therapies, while bans have not succeeded in Colorado, Nevada and Iowa, among other states.