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N.Y. state Assembly to consider ban on gay conversion therapy for minors

Tuesday, June 10, 2014
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Matthew Shurka of Long Island, N.Y., says he remains emotionally scarred from five years of attempts to "cure" his homosexuality.

Matthew Shurka of Long Island, N.Y., says he remains emotionally scarred from five years of attempts to “cure” his homosexuality.

ALBANY, N.Y. — A proposed ban against New York health professionals trying to change a child’s sexual orientation through therapy comes too late for Matthew Shurka, a 26-year-old Long Island man who says he remains emotionally scarred from five years of attempts to “cure” his homosexuality.

“My anxiety was at its worst,” Shurka said of the therapy that began when he was 16. “I never attempted suicide, but I had a lot of suicidal thoughts and dreams and thinking about it, considering it.”

The American Psychological Association says that there is no evidence that the so-called gay conversion therapy can change someone’s sexual orientation. A task force set up by the group found that it can cause distress and anxiety.

New York’s Democratic-led Assembly is set to consider a bill on Wednesday that would ban the therapy on minors. Bans against gay conversion therapy have already gone into law in New Jersey and California. A proposed ban was voted down in Illinois in April.

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Sen. Brad Hoylman, who sponsored the measure and is the only openly gay member of the Senate, said that he heard from a man who had electrodes attached to his genitalia to curb his homosexual desires.

“On one level it’s pretty nutty stuff,” Holyman said, “but it’s happening in New York by licensed therapists.”

The Democrat said that the bill would extend to New York state licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, mental health practitioners and physicians. Clergy would not be included in the ban.

Opponents of the ban say that it may infringe on a person’s freedom of speech, although a federal judge in New Jersey upheld that state’s ban in November saying that the law does not violate free speech.

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