WASHINGTON — President Obama is lending support to efforts to end "conversion therapy" that seeks to change the sexual orientation of gay, lesbian, and transgender youth.
Responding to a petition on the White House website calling for a ban on conversion therapy, Obama writes that "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."
Obama adds: "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."
The White House petition, which has more than 120,000 signatures, calls for enactment of "Leelah's Law to Ban All LGBTQ+ Conversion Therapy."
The proposed law is named for Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender youth who committed suicide in December after saying her parents had forced her to attend conversion therapy.
The petition says conversion therapies "have been documented to cause great harms and in this case, Leelah's death. Therapists that engage in the attempt to brainwash or reverse any child's gender identity or sexual orientation are seriously unethical and legislation is needed to end such practices."
Also responding to the petition, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett writes that "we share your concern about its potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer youth."
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," Jarrett writes. "As part of our dedication to protecting America's youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors."
(David Jackson writes for USA Today)