As politics catch up with science, more and more states and cities have been passing laws that ban conversion therapy. So far 18 states and more than 50 cities and counties have outlawed the practice, which aims to turn LGBTQ people straight through discredited psychological practices.
But soon, you’ll have to strike the largest city in the nation from the list. New York City is set to repeal its 2017 law, which forbids consumers from being charged “for services intended to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity,”
If the repeal seems like a head-spinning decision for a liberal stronghold, it’s for a good reason. The bill is being challenged in court by a right-wing group, and opponents of conversion therapy are worried that the Trump-era federal courts will side against the law.
“Obviously I didn’t want to repeal this. I don’t want to be someone who is giving in to these right-wing groups,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is gay, told The New York Times in an interview. “But the Supreme Court has become conservative; the Second Circuit, which oversees New York, has become more conservative.”
The suit against the city law was brought by Alliance Defending Freedom, which might more properly be called Alliance Restricting Civil Rights. The group filed the suit on behalf of an Orthodox Jewish psychotherapist, on the grounds that it infringed on his free speech rights.
The New York City law is different than almost all the other laws banning conversion therapy. In the vast majority of cases, the laws forbid conversion therapy only for anyone under the age of 18. New York City’s law does not have an age limit.
AFD has been the legal powerhouse against any number of challenges to LGBTQ rights, including attacking trans-inclusive bathrooms and the rights of trans athletes, while defending the rights of homophobic bakers and florists.
The group scored one of its biggest successes with last year’s Supreme Court Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, which paved the way for a future ruling allowing conservative Christians to opt out of anti-discrimination laws under cover of religious liberty. For its unrelenting assault on LGBTQ rights, AFD has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The New York City law may be repealed by the City Council as soon as this month. New York State already has a law in place banning conversion therapy for minors, so at least they are protected. Not if AFD has its way, of course: The group is seeking legal challenges to laws protecting minors. Unfortunately, thanks to a Republican-packed judiciary, they may prevail.