Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) had a blunt definition of gay conversion therapy.
“It’s quackery,” he said in an interview last Friday. “It’s a scam.”
And he will soon be able to call it illegal, thanks to the City Council overwhelmingly voting to prohibit therapists from charging or accepting payment for the discredited practice.
The bill is expected to be signed by the mayor later this month.
“This is something I have been fighting for the past five, maybe six years,” said Dromm, an openly gay councilman. “I had to educate a lot of my colleagues on it.”
Gay conversion therapy refers to the practice of a therapist trying to convince a client to change their sexual orientation or gender identity through various means.
It has been widely discredited in the psychological and medical fields.
The bill, which was co-sponsored by Dromm, was proposed by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan, Bronx).
“Conversion therapy is barbaric and inhumane, and right here in New York City, we will continue to be the model for acceptance across the nation as we ban conversion therapy once and for all,” Mark-Viverito said in a statement.
Councilmen David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn) and Chaim Deutsch (D-Brooklyn) — both of whom represent heavily Jewish districts — were the only two who voted against the bill.
Greenfield cited religious concerns, though the legislation doesn’t affect those who offer the service for free, like spiritual leaders.
Councilman Andy King (D-Bronx) abstained, attributing his vote to his personal beliefs.
Deutsch has not publicly commented on why he voted against the bill.
Therapists found charging for conversion services will be fined $1,000 for the first violation, $5,000 for the second and $10,00 for each subsequent infraction.
“A lot of people didn’t know this was still happening,” Dromm said. “They assumed since being gay was no longer thought of as a mental illness that meant therapists would no longer try to continue converting someone, but there are some ... surprisingly, there are a couple in Chelsea, which has a huge LGBT population.”
But Pauline Park, a Jackson Heights resident and head of the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy, believes the legislation does not go far enough.
Park, who is transgender, said in an interview she has “a hard time seeing” how a child being sent to therapy for gender dysphoria, or gender identity disorder — which is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — by his or her parents might report that and have the law enforced. Furthermore, she added, the law might conflict with the parents’ legal right to seek treatment for the child.
“And that’s where this new law is needed the most,” Park said. “It’s well-meaning but I have a hard time seeing how this might be enforced.”