The New York City Council approved on Tuesday the repeal of a ban on gay conversion therapy, amid fears that if a lawsuit against the ban went to the Supreme Court, a precedent supporting conversion therapy might be set.

The citywide law is a broad ban against conversion therapy, and provided legal protection from conversion therapy to minors and adults. Once this ban is repealed, New York City will fall under New York’s statewide law, a looser ban that only applies to minors.

“Obviously I didn’t want to repeal this. I don’t want to be someone who is giving in to these right-wing groups,” said Corey Johnson, the Council speaker. “Ultimately, I think this is the responsible, strategic and right thing to do.”

The New York City ban was passed in 2017, and in January, the Alliance Defending Freedom challenged the law, arguing that it violated free speech by censoring speech between counselors and adult patients.

Similar bans have faced legal challenges in New Jersey and California, but in both circumstances, the Supreme Court declined to review the cases. But with the Supreme Court and the Second Circuit, which oversees New York, becoming increasingly conservative, council members are opting for caution.

“I can’t stress enough how agonizing of a decision this was, but ultimately I listened to the advocates who know the issue best, as well as my heart,” said Johnson, who is gay, in a statement. “I will never stop fighting for the community I am so proud to be a part of.”

Almost 700,000 LGBTQ+ adults in the U.S. have received conversion therapy, and 20,000 LGBTQ+ minors are expected to receive conversion therapy before turning 18 in the 41 states that have not banned the practice, according to the Williams Institute.

Conversion therapy is a practice that attempts to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity through treatments that have no scientific validity, and that rely on the discredited premise that being LGBTQ+ is a defect.

Scientific organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Pan American Health Organization all characterize conversion therapy as ineffective in changing sexual orientation and often harmful.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, “no credible evidence exists that any mental health intervention can reliably and safely change sexual orientation, nor, from a mental health perspective does sexual orientation need to be changed.” The organization added that efforts to change sexual orientation “represent a significant risk of harm by subjecting individuals to forms of treatment which have not been scientifically validated.”

Written ByGrace Symes

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