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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 10, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 15
Obama opposes 'conversion therapy' White House says
Section One
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Obama opposes 'conversion therapy' White House says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

President Obama has announced his support for a 'We the People' online petition urging the government to 'Enact Leelah's Law to Ban All LGBTQ+ Conversion Therapy.'

The petition currently has more than 120,000 signatures.

Leelah's Law commemorates Transgender teen Leelah Alcorn, who threw herself into oncoming traffic after her parents forced her to undergo so-called 'conversion therapy.' The 'therapy' often includes intense interrogation-like techniques, isolation, sleep-deprivation, and sometimes physical assault.

Obama was moved by the story of Alcorn's suicide, his personal friend and senior advisor Valerie Jarrett told reporters.

'It was tragic, but I will tell you, unfortunately she has a lot of company,' Jarrett said.

'It's not the story of one young person. It is the story of countless young people who have been subjected to this.'

President Obama will not introduce federal legislation against the practice, White House officials said on April 8, but he does support state laws to ban it. The White praised state laws against 'conversion therapy' in its official statement.

'As part of their duty to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens, several states have taken their own steps to protect minors from the potentially dangerous effects of conversion therapy,' the White House said.

'California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia have all banned licensed professionals from using conversion therapy on minors. Since last year, lawmakers in 18 other states have introduced similar legislation.

'In a 2013 signing statement for his state's legislative ban, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie expressed that 'exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of the benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate...'

'In February 2015, a New Jersey Superior Court judge ruled that advertising a service that could change a person's sexuality is fraudulent and violates the state's consumer protection laws.'

LGBT organizations reacted with praise for the president.

'We are thrilled that President Obama will call for an end to the use of conversion therapy on minors,' GLSEN said.

'It is a harmful and discredited practice that uses rejection, shame and psychological abuse aimed at changing one's sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Fifteen years ago, major medical, psychiatric and counseling associations rallied to GLSEN's side to beat back attempts to force this insidious practice into our schools. We salute them for their pioneering stance and thank the President for his leadership in protecting youth from these damaging and misguided practices.'

'We are ecstatic that President Barack Obama spoke out against this harmful practice that psychologically terrorizes too many perfectly healthy LGBT youth and stigmatizes them as mentally ill,' said Truth Wins Out's Executive Director Wayne Besen.

'The President's wise words gave momentum to efforts to prohibit fringe practitioners from traumatizing vulnerable LGBT adolescents and calling it therapy.'

'Tonight the President lent the full weight of his leadership to the work our community has been doing for years to protect young people and their families,' Lambda Legal added.

'He joins not only Lambda Legal and our sister organizations, but every leading medical and therapeutic organization, as they have unanimously and unequivocally recognized that LGBT people's identities should not be targeted for change.'

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