White House Responds To Petition On Dangerous Anti-LGBT Conversion Therapy

by Ianthe Metzger

Petition was launched in response to the tragic story of Leelah Alcorn and calls for help to ban the dangerous and discredited practice

WASHINGTON – Today, the White House responded to a petition with over 120,000 signers seeking “help to ban the practice known as 'conversion therapy.’” The petition came in response to the heartbreaking story of Leelah Alcorn, a 17 year old transgender youth who tragically took her own life after being subjected to the horrifying experiences of the dangerous and discredited practice. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization hailed the White House’s response to the petition.

“The White House statement today is historic and sends a clear message that this dangerous and discredited practice should be relegated to the dustbin of history,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Psychological abuse has no place in therapy, no matter the intention. Conversion therapy uses fear and shame that no child should be exposed to, telling young people that the only way to find love or acceptance is to change the very nature of who they are.”

“We share your concern about its potential devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer youth,” the White House statement reads. “This Administration believes that young people should be valued for who they are, no matter what they look like, where they’re from, the gender with which they identify, or who they love.”                         

So-called “conversion therapy” is a range of dangerous and discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Such practices have been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization, but due to continuing discrimination and societal bias against LGBT people, some practitioners continue to conduct conversion therapy. Minors are especially vulnerable, and conversion therapy can lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide.

HRC and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) are working closely with state equality groups to pass state legislation to prevent licensed providers from exposing minors to conversion therapy, including laws passed in California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia. At least 18 states have introduced similar legislation this year (AZ, CO, CT, FL, IL, IA, MA, MN, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, TX, VT, VA, WA). Oklahoma introduced legislation which would have specifically legitimized conversion therapy and immunized it from state oversight, but that bill failed to pass.

In August of 2013, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California’s law which was signed by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown in 2012. In September of 2014, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld New Jersey’s law which was signed by Republican Governor Chris Christie in August of 2013. In February of 2015, a NJ Superior Court judge ruled that misrepresenting homosexuality as a disorder violates the state’s consumer protection laws. 

More information on the lies and dangers of efforts to change sexual orientation and gender identity can be found here.

 The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.


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