With NY Lawmakers Stalled, Governor Moves to Stop 'Conversion Therapy'

Andrew Cuomo

Trying to therapeutically convert your gay or lesbian son or daughter to straight is going to get a lot more rare in New York, thanks to executive action today from Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Although a growing number of states have passed a ban on so-called conversion therapy for minors through the legislature, the idea is stalled in New York where the Republican-controlled Senate hasn’t brought it to a vote despite the Democratic-controlled Assembly having passed the legislation.

“We will not allow the misguided and the intolerant to punish LGBT young people for simply being who they are,” said Governor Cuomo, who called reparative therapy a “hateful and fundamentally flawed practice.”

The new regulations span multiple agencies. The New York State Department of Financial Services will ban insurance companies from covering conversion therapy for minors. And the state’s Medicaid plan won’t cover it either, making it more costly for a parent who wants to try converting their kid — something all major mental health organizations agree is damaging and impossible.

Any mental health provider overseen by the New York State Office of Mental Health will now be banned from using the practice on minors or face loss of their state license. The combination of the restrictions should severely limit the availability of the therapy.

This is the first time any governor has acted independently of the legislature to address the problem, though other governors could follow Cuomo's example. Laws banning conversion therapy are in place in neighboring New Jersey, plus California, Oregon, Illinois, and the District of Columbia.

State senator Brad Hoylman, the out man who is lead sponsor for the stalled New York bill, praised Cuomo in a statement distributed with the announcement of the regulations. 

"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."

The Human Rights Campaign also praised the governor, whose announcement is timed with  the annual HRC Greater New York Gala, where Cuomo will be given the National Equality Award tonight. 

“Governor Cuomo continues to cement his role as one of the LGBT community’s strongest allies by taking this enormous step to end a practice that is tantamount to child abuse,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “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.”