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NY advocates renew push for law banning 'conversion therapy'

April 26, 2018 07:10 AM

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Advocates made another push Wednesday for New York to join several other states in enacting a law banning therapy that attempts to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of minors.

Dozens of social workers joined students, LGBT activists and lawmakers Wednesday at the state Capitol to call on the Republican-led Senate to take up the legislation banning gay conversion therapy. The measure has passed the Democrat-controlled Assembly several years in a row.

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The New York State Psychiatric Association, the New York State Psychological Association and National Association of Social Workers oppose therapy aimed at changing a minor's sexual orientation.

Democratic Sen. Brady Hoylman's legislation banning conversion therapy has yet to make it out of committee, but has the support of at least one Senate Republican, co-sponsor Phil Boyle, of Long Island.

"It doesn't work and it's harmful," Hoylman said of conversion therapy. "Protecting our children from quackery doesn't have any party labels."

The Senate and Assembly measures would ban mental health care professionals from practicing conversion therapy with patients under 18. Last year, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order that barred insurance coverage for conversion therapy for minors and prohibited state mental health facilities from offering it.

The District of Columbia and nine states currently ban conversion therapy, and other states are considering legislation that would ban the practice, which opponents liken to child abuse.

Great Neck, New York, native Mathew Shurka said he spent five years undergoing conversion therapy by a licensed mental health professional starting after he came out to his parents when he was 16. During that period, he contemplated suicide, Shurka said. He stopped going for the therapy when he turned 21.

"I was a mess," said Shurka, a 29-year-old urban planner living in Manhattan who's a member of the anti-conversion therapy group Born Perfect. "I'm in a great place today."

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(Copyright 2018 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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