New York governor moves against gay 'conversion' therapy

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking at a press conference.Reuters

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has moved to restrict the controversial practice of "conversion therapy" which operates on the premise that gay people can be "treated" to make them straight.

Conversion therapy has long been condemned by gay rights groups and repudiated by many individuals and organisations in the health, scientific and medical communities. 

The New York State Department of Financial Services is to issue rules banning insurers from paying for conversion therapy for those aged under 18. Additionally, the New York State Department of Health is to ban conversion therapy being paid for under the Medicaid program. The Office of Mental Health is issuing regulations banning its facilities being used for conversion therapy on minors.

States such as New Jersey have already passed laws banning its use on minors and others are expected to follow suit.

Governor Cuomo said: "We will not allow the misguided and the intolerant to punish LGBT young people for simply being who they are."

His office said the comprehensive new regulations would help prevent the practice of "so-called lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender conversion therapy, which has been deemed harmful to patients by a wide variety of leading medical and mental health professionals."

Governor Cuomo added: "Conversion therapy is a hateful and fundamentally flawed practice that is counter to everything this state stands for. 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."

Dr Renee Binder, president of the American Psychiatric Association, said: "Governor Cuomo and the State of New York are commended for taking a principled and scientific stand. APA has long recognized that so-called reparative therapy is not a scientifically validated treatment and can, in fact, undermine self-esteem and be hazardous."

Dr Warren Seigel, chair of the New York State Academy of Pediatrics, said: "Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming. The American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as all major professional associations of health and mental health practitioners and child and adolescent development specialists in the United State have recognized this fact for nearly 40 years. We are very pleased by the actions announced today to help protect vulnerable gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth from discredited, sham and dangerous interventions. We applaud Governor Cuomo for his bold leadership on this issue."

Senator Brad Hoylman said: "So-called LGBT conversion therapy is extremely harmful to our kids, as virtually all major medical organization have determined, and stands out as one of the biggest consumer frauds in recent history. Being the prime sponsor of legislation to ban this practice and the only openly LGBT member of the State Senate, I am extremely grateful to Governor Cuomo for using his executive authority to cut off state support and protect LGBT children from destructive and discredited sexual orientation change efforts."