Nation & World

Obama backs ban on ‘conversion therapy’

The White House is adding its support to efforts to ban conversion therapy -- the practice by mental health providers that aims to change an individual’s sexual orientation.

In a blog post responding to a petition on the White House’s ‘We the People’ site, senior advisor Valerie Jarrett says the White House shares critics’ concerns about what she said were the “potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer youth.”

She said that the “overwhelming scientific evidence” shows that conversion therapy is “neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm.”

The move stops short of calling for a national ban, with Jarrett writing that it would require congressional action. But she notes that several states have acted on their own with California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia banning licensed professionals from using conversion therapy on minors. Since last year, she said, lawmakers in 18 other states have introduced similar legislation.

“While a national ban would require congressional action, 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,” Jarrett wrote.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called Obama’s move a “clarion call for states to act swiftly to protect the lives of LGBT citizens, especially children and young adults, whose lives and dignity are at risk every time a medical professional or community member refuses to accept them.”

The petition was launched in January in the memory of Leelah Alcorn a 17 year old transgender youth who in December wrote a suicide note, posted it on Tumblr and walked in front of a semi-truck. She wrote that her parents had forced her to attend conversion therapy, “pulled her out of school and isolated her in an attempt to change her gender identity.”