President Obama called for an end Wednesday to “conversion therapy” that counsels gay teens and children on how to become straight.
“The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm,” Ms. Jarrett said.
Her statement was in response to an online petition asking the White House to ban the therapies. The push was prompted by the death of 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn of Ohio, who wrote in a suicide note in December that her parents forced her to attend conversion therapy.
The petition has received more than 120,000 signatures, more than enough to merit a response from the White House on its “We the People” forum.
California, New Jersey and the District of Columbia have banned licensed professionals from using conversion therapy on minors. Lawmakers in 18 other states have introduced similar legislation.
Christopher Doyle, president of Voice of the Voiceless and a licensed clinical professional counselor who supports sexual orientation change efforts, has said there can’t be a scientific basis for the claim that the therapy is harmful to children because there are no studies on sexual orientation change efforts and the impact on minors.
Ms. Jarrett said efforts to change a person’s gender identity “have also been shown in countless instances to have dangerous effects.”
“The American Psychological Association has repeatedly affirmed its stance against these practices, recently stating that efforts to change an individual’s sexual orientation can pose serious health risks” to gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, she said.
In support of its argument, the White House cited the example of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who said while signing his state’s law in 2013 that “exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of the benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate.”
Groups such as the New Jersey Family Policy Council have sought to overturn New Jersey’s ban. In February, a New Jersey judge ruled that advertising a service that could change a person’s sexuality is fraudulent and violates the state’s consumer protection laws.
Ms. Jarrett said a national ban would require congressional action, suggesting such a move by the Republican-majority Congress is unlikely. But she added, “We are hopeful that the clarity of the evidence combined with the actions taken by these states will lead to broader action that this administration would support.”
California enacted the nation’s first ban on sexual orientation change efforts in 2012. That law was contested in court but was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
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