A Step Backwards? New York City Council Members Work on Repealing the Recent Ban on Gay Conversion Therapy


Kaitlyn Romanger

Amanda Caress ’20, founding member of the LGBTQ+ Resource Board, believes that conversion therapy is an absurd practice. “How you identify is not something you can change and instead something you must accept and love about yourself.”

New York has been one of the largest centers of liberal and ethical ideology from the Jazz Age to the era of Women’s Choice. Its support of minority rights, interracial marriage, and decriminalization of marijuana are only a few examples of the city’s historically left-leaning political atmosphere. However, the recent repeal of a venerated two-year old ban on gay conversion therapy has many wondering whether New York City has taken a step backward in the midst of its liberal stride.

As of early 2019, eighteen states and Washington D.C. have banned gay conversion therapy for minors. An infamous form of psychotherapy, conversion therapy utilizes psychological degradation, castration, and electroconvulsive shock therapy in an attempt to alter one’s sexual orientation to align with the conservative heterosexual norm. Taking one step further than these eighteen states, a list which includes New York State, New York City has banned the therapy for consenting adults and minors with a bill signed into law by Governor Cuomo in 2017. Since then, the city has completely banned the therapy, receiving widespread support from New York residents.

Opposing this support, a conservative group, Alliance Defending Freedom, has filed a lawsuit against New York City alleging that the bill banning the therapy completely is “unconstitutional in its entirety.” The group claims that the law is too broad and therefore impedes on religious and social freedoms. New York City has become wary of the lawsuit reaching the Supreme Court, which, according to ‘The New York Times,’ has historically been known to challenge city and state legislation.

“The strides made to increase acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community have been wonderful and huge; it’s very disappointing that policymakers would give in to the resistance from far-right groups rather than pushing through to make actual progress” -Amanda Caress ’20

The most recent example was in July 2019 when the NYPD revised a ruling that limited the possession of guns outside of homes. The Supreme Court agreed to take on a case challenging the ruling, making the police department see the revision necessary.

Incidents like these have pushed the city to set in motion a repeal of the ban, as dictated by Corey Johnson, the Speaker of the New York City Council and Councilman of the 3rd district.
Johnson’s statement has since generated considerable controversy as he, himself, is gay. His reasoning behind his support for the repeal of the ban was centered around the possibility that, if the case went to the Supreme Court, the judges would use the opportunity to deem the bill unconstitutional and legalize the therapy for those of all ages on a federal level.

In an interview with ‘The Washington Post,’ Johnson clarified his feelings about the repeal of the ban. “Ultimately, when the case was made to me that this law could potentially be jeopardizing protecting millions of other children across the country, that was the thing that moved me,” said Johnson.

Kaitlyn Romanger
The bulletin board outside of the guidance office contains the history of the LGBTQ+ community as well as a list of resources for people of this community to ensure that they are heard and respected.

This reasoning, however, is not shared by many. Amanda Caress ’20, one of the founders of the LGBTQ+ Resource Board, is not convinced that the situation was handled in the most appropriate manner. “The strides made to increase acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community have been wonderful and huge; it’s very disappointing that policymakers would give in to the resistance from far-right groups rather than pushing through to make actual progress,” said Caress. She emphasizes that the right to love whoever one pleases is worth fighting for. “One day,” she hopes, “we will get to where we should be: a world where policymakers on both sides of the aisle understand that no one should have to change who they are to gain the acceptance of others and work together to reach that goal.”

Supported by the populace or not, New York City’s repeal of gay conversion therapy has proved to be strategic at its roots. When it came to the decision to save one sheep or the rest of the flock, New York City chose the latter, a noble, yet controversial, resolution.