Obama calls for end to gay ‘con­ver­sion’ ther­apy for youth


U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama is call­ing for an end to psy­chi­atric ther­apy treat­ments aimed at chang­ing the sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity of gay, les­bian and trans­gen­der youth.

The move comes in re­sponse to an on­line pe­ti­tion posted on the White House web­site fol­low­ing the death of 17-year-old Lee­lah Al­corn. The trans­gen­der teen com­mit­ted sui­cide in De­cem­ber and left be­hind a note say­ing her par­ents had forced her to at­tend so­called con­ver­sion ther­apy.

In a state­ment late Wed­nes­day, White House se­nior ad­viser Va­lerie Jar­rett said the ad­min­is­tra­tion sup­ports ban­ning the prac­tice for mi­nors.

“We share your con­cern about its po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects on the lives of trans­gen­der as well as gay, les­bian, bi­sex­ual and queer youth,” Jar­rett said. “The over­whelm­ing sci­en­tific ev­i­dence dem- on­strates that con­ver­sion ther­apy, es­pe­cially when it is prac­ticed on young peo­ple, is nei­ther med­i­cally nor eth­i­cally ap­pro­pri­ate and can cause sub­stan­tial harm.”

The White House is not ex­plic­itly call­ing for con­gres­sional leg­is­la­tion to ban the ther­a­pies na­tion­wide. But Jar­rett’s state­ment high­lighted states that have outlawed the prac­tice and ex­pressed hope that there will be broader ac­tion.

The White House says law­mak­ers in 18 states have in­tro­duced leg­isla- tion sim­i­lar to mea­sures al­ready in place in Cal­i­for­nia, New Jer­sey and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., ban­ning li­censed pro­fes­sion­als from us­ing con­ver­sion ther­apy on mi­nors.

The Amer­i­can Psy­chi­atric As­so­ci­a­tion has long op­posed con­ver­sion ther­apy, which the or­ga­ni­za­tion says is based on the as­sump­tion that ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is a men­tal dis­or­der.

Al­corn, the Ohio teen whose death spurred the White House pe­ti­tion, had gained an on­line fol­low­ing through her Tum­blr posts. She wrote about de­pres­sion and iso­la­tion, lamented that her life would only get worse, and ex­pressed frus­tra­tion that her par­ents wanted her to be “their per­fect lit­tle straight Chris­tian boy.” She said she was taken to “Chris­tian ther­a­pists” who were “very biased.”

Mara Keis­ling, the ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Na­tional Cen­ter for Trans­gen­der Equal­ity, wel­comed Obama’s state­ment.

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