New York City Council Set to Repeal Ban on Conversion Therapy in Order to Safeguard Broader Protections for LGBTIQ People

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

12 September 2019

Media Contact: Daina Ruduša, commsteam@outrightinternational.org, +1 (917) 622-1865

New York City Council Set to Repeal Ban on “Conversion Therapy” in Order to Safeguard Broader Protections for LGBTIQ People

(New York) Today, 12 September 2019, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson plans to introduce a bill which would see the city’s ban on so-called conversion therapy lifted. This move comes as an effort to safeguard protections for the human rights of LGBTIQ people by avoiding a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ban reaching the Supreme Court and setting a nation-wide precedent for “conversion therapy”.

So-called conversion therapy is the term most often attributed to practices which seek to change, suppress, or divert the sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression of people who do not fit the presumed norm of cis-gender heterosexuality. Also called reorientation therapy, reparative therapy, reintegrative therapy, gay cure therapy, or, more recently, support for unwanted same-sex attraction or transgender identities. These practices never work, are widely recognized - including by the World Psychiatric Association - to be based on junk science, and cause deep and lasting trauma on those upon whom they are inflicted.  

18 states across the US ban “conversion therapy” on minors, including New York state. The city’s ban preceded the state ban and is among the most comprehensive bans in the country, as it applies to “any individual” offering any form of “conversion therapy”, not just licensed health professionals, and bans such practices on all people, not just on minors. The constitutionality of the comprehensive city ban was challenged through a lawsuit filed in January 2019 by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, using pseudo-human rights language to argue that adults have a right to such “therapy”. Lifting the ban is a strategic move to avoid the lawsuit reaching the conservative Supreme Court and setting a precedent allowing the harmful practices to continue. 

Maria Sjodin, Deputy Director of OutRight Action International, comments:

“ADF’s challenge and the necessary move to repeal the ban on conversion therapy in New York City is symptomatic of the growing attack on human rights, and the human rights of LGBTIQ people in particular, that has soared in the US under the current administration. Initiatives such as the Commission for Unalienable Rights, and broad attacks on gender and sexual and reproductive health and rights, have emboldened groups such as the ADF to be more visible, and ramp up their attacks on the human rights of LGTBIQ people and women. 

The backlash against the progress made in recognition of the human rights of LGBTIQ people in recent decades is real and growing. Proponents of so-called conversion therapy have begun using human rights language to support their efforts, claiming that those who want such services have the right to them. But make no mistake - this is not an effort to safeguard freedom of speech, or the right of LGBTIQ people to seek mental health support, but rather an effort to make more people conform to outdated perceptions of cis-gender heterosexuality as the only acceptable norm.”

The report “Harmful Treatment: The Global Reach of So-Called Conversion Therapy” issued by OutRight Action International last month found that so-called conversion therapy practices are prevalent across the world. Total bans on such practices exist only in four countries (Ecuador, Brazil, Taiwan, and Malta), with a further ten, including the US, having partial or policy bans in place. 

Maria Sjodin, Deputy Director of OutRight Action International, continues:

The existence and prevalence of ”conversion therapy” is directly related to just how deeply unaccepted and feared LGBTIQ people are in many societies around the world. These practices hinge on the belief that cis-gender heterosexuality is the only accepted norm, and gender identities beyond the one assigned at birth and same-sex attraction are an anomaly, a sickness, and something to be “reoriented”, changed or “cured”, if need be by brutal, inhuman force. It is shocking that over forty-five years after the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the Manual of Mental Disorders, and over 20 years after it first condemned “conversion therapy”, there are forces fighting for these harmful practices in the US.”

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OutRight

Every day around the world, LGBTIQ people’s human rights and dignity are abused in ways that shock the conscience. The stories of their struggles and their resilience are astounding, yet remain unknown—or willfully ignored—by those with the power to make change. OutRight Action International, founded in 1990 as the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, works alongside LGBTIQ people in the Global South, with offices in six countries, to help identify community-focused solutions to promote policy for a lasting change. We vigilantly monitor and document human rights abuses to spur action when they occur. We train partners to expose abuses and advocate for themselves. Headquartered in New York City, OutRight is the only global LGBTIQ-specific organization with a permanent presence at the United Nations in New York that advocates for human rights progress for LGBTIQ people.