17-year-old Leelah Alcorn threw herself in front of truck after her parents forced her to undergo conversion therapy
President Obama has signalled his support for efforts to outlaw so-called conversion therapy for LGBT minors.
The practice seeks to “cure” or “convert” LGBT people to heterosexuality or traditional gender identities.
On Wednesday, the White House responded to a We the People petition signed by over 120,000 people that was launched in response to the tragic suicide of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn in December.
“As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors,” said the White House.
It added that, “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.”
The White House also included in its response a quote from President Barack Obama when he spoke at the 2009 Human Rights Campaign (HRC) National Dinner. It reads:
“Tonight, somewhere in America, a young person, let’s say a young man, will struggle to fall to sleep, wrestling alone with a secret he’s held as long as he can remember. Soon, perhaps, he will decide it’s time to let that secret out. What happens next depends on him, his family, as well as his friends and his teachers and his community. But it also depends on us – on the kind of society we engender, the kind of future we build.”
HRC President Chad Griffi welcomed the news. “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,” he said.
“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.”
Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama, told The New York Times that the president will support initiatives to ban conversion therapy at the state level.
The US states of New Jersey and California and the city of Washington D.C. have already banned gay and lesbian youth under the age of 18 from being subjected to conversion therapy. In February, England’s National Health Service (NHS) told its staff to stop referring patients for this kind of “treatment”.