Religious liberty, free speech, and parental rights took a major hit in the State of New York last week.
On January 15, 2019, each house of the New York State Legislature passed the Counselor Coercion Bill (S.1046–Hoylman/A.576–Glick), which bans mental health professionals from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts—or “change therapy”—with minor clients. The Senate vote was 57-4 and the Assembly vote was 141-7. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is an outspoken supporter of the bill and is expected to sign it into law.
LGBT advocates take the position that efforts to diminish or resolve unwanted same-sex attraction are futile. This position flies in the face of scientific evidence and of the lived experiences of untold numbers of people. Nevertheless, the political left persists in treating change therapy as the mental health equivalent of snake oil. Despite sustained efforts made by New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms to inform legislators about this issue over the past six years, last week’s vote makes it clear that false beliefs about change therapy are pervasive in the minds of lawmakers in both parties.
The passage of this bill will harm four groups of people. First, it will harm young people that might benefit from change therapy, but will no longer be able to obtain it legally in the State of New York. Second, it will harm the parents of those young people by removing potential sources of help for their kids. Third, it will harm mental health professionals who could now lose their livelihoods if they assist minor clients in overcoming unwanted same-sex attraction. Fourth, it will harm every resident of the State of New York by eroding free speech, religious liberty, and parental rights.
Despite this unwelcome development, there is still good news. The good news is that the Counselor Coercion Bill leaves various types of help available to New Yorkers seeking freedom from unwanted same-sex attraction. The Counselor Coercion Bill:
- Does not bar a pastor from assisting persons of any age who wish to overcome unwanted same-sex attraction (provided that the pastor is not a mental health professional acting within the scope of that profession);
- Does not bar a pastor from preaching a sermon on freedom from homosexual sin;
- Does not bar a life coach from assisting persons of any age who wish to overcome unwanted same-sex attraction;
- Does not bar a group of individuals from meeting together for the purpose of mutual support in overcoming unwanted same-sex attraction or living chaste lives as persons with same-sex attraction;
- Does not bar a mental health professional from assisting clients of any age who wish to overcome sexually addictive behavior;
- Does not bar a mental health professional from assisting clients of any age who seek to work through past abuse or trauma; and
- Does not bar a mental health professional from assisting adult clients who wish to overcome unwanted same-sex attraction.
Unfortunately, it is quite likely that the proponents of the Counselor Coercion Bill will try to further restrict available avenues of assistance to persons seeking to overcome unwanted same-sex attraction. When they do, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms will need your help in pushing back.
The 11 brave legislators who supported religious liberty, free speech, and parental rights by voting against the Counselor Coercion Bill last week were:
- Sen. George Amedore (R-Rotterdam)
- Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn)
- Sen. Patrick Gallivan (R-Elma)
- Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson)
- Asm. Marjorie Byrnes (R-Caledonia)
- Asm. Karl Brabenec (R-Deerpark)
- Asm. David DiPietro (R-East Aurora)
- Asm. Simcha Eichenstein (D-Brooklyn)
- Asm. Chris Friend (R-Big Flats)
- Asm. Kieran Lalor (R-East Fishkill)
- Asm. Peter Lawrence (R-Greece)
(Sens. John Flanagan, R-East Northport, and Chris Jacobs, R-Buffalo, were excused from the vote, as were Asms. Catherine Nolan, D-Queens, and Robin Schimminger, D-Kenmore.)
If you are represented by one of the 11 legislators that voted against the bill, please thank your legislator(s) for taking a principled stand.
 As of January 2019, the counties of Albany, Erie, Ulster, and Westchester—as well as the cities of Albany, New York, and Rochester—have passed local laws banning change therapy. Please note that local change therapy bans may be more restrictive than the Counselor Coercion Bill is.