New York Law Prohibits Conversion Therapy for Minors

Many laws and legal principles regarding the care of minor children revolve around a core principle: the best interest of the minor child. In particular, laws concerning child custody center on what custodial arrangement is in the minor child’s best interests.

Many caretakers and parents do not think that a minor child’s sexual orientation or gender identity should factor in assessing a child’s best interests. However, for some children—particularly adolescent children—they may be preoccupied with such issues psychologically and emotionally.

As the natural legal guardian of their child, parents were free to decide what was best for their children. This included the child’s moral and religious upbringing. However, in recent years, many mental health experts believe that issues related to children’s sexual orientation and gender identity are connected to emotional and psychological conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

In general, parents have the authority to make medical decisions on behalf of their children. In the past, some parents believed that a treatment known as “conversion therapy” was appropriate for children who exhibited behaviors suggesting a sexual orientation or gender perception contrary to their moral values.

However, recent legislation in New York precludes the possibility of turning to mental health professions to provide conversion therapy for minor children—even if their parents insist on it.

New York Law on Conversion Therapy

According to The American School Counselor Associations and the Pan American Health Organization, sexual orientation change efforts present significant risks to a child’s emotional wellbeing that outweigh any claimed benefits. Historically, parents could consult mental health professionals to provide conversion therapy to adolescents who exhibited conduct that was considered sexually “deviant.” Adults who believed that “deviant” sexual orientations were a form of mental illness also thought that conversion therapy was in a child’s best interests.

However, evidentiary support for the therapeutic success of conversion therapy is considered questionable under prevailing thoughts in the mental health community. There was a growing correlation between conversion therapy and adolescent suicide, particularly in cases where the process reinforced self-hatred in adolescent patients suffering from depression and anxiety.

Since January 25, 2019, New York law prohibits mental health professionals from conducting conversion therapy—technically referred to as “sexual orientation change efforts”—for patients under 18 years old. New York law defines sexual orientation change efforts to mean “any practice by a mental health professional that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation, including, but not limited to, efforts to change behaviors, gender identity, or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings towards individuals of the same sex.”

Any mental health professional who attempts to change a minor-aged patient’s sexual orientation will face disciplinary action from the applicable licensing authority in addition to penalties under New York Public Health Law.

Exceptions to New York’s Conversion Therapy Law

New York’s prohibition on conversion therapy does not apply to counseling and therapy for persons seeking to transition from one gender to another. The definition of “sexual orientation change efforts” also excludes supportive therapies regarding “the facilitation of patients’ coping, social support and identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices.”

Furthermore, this law does not apply to counseling services from members of the clergy and advice offered by non-licensed individuals associated with a religious organization or non-profit business.

The Law Office of Tzvi Y. Hagler Is Here to Help

Need legal advice regarding New York’s laws affecting the care of your minor child? You should contact the Law Office of Tzvi Y. Hagler. Attorney Hagler has years of legal experience with New York laws impacting one’s legal rights and responsibilities concerning the care of a minor child. If you are concerned about the extent of your legal duties and privileges as a parent regarding the care and custody of your children under New York law, Attorney Hagler is here to advise you.

Call (516) 514-3868 or contact Attorney Hagler online for an initial consultation exploring your legal rights and options today.