Obama Supports National Efforts to Ban LGBT Cure Therapy Aimed at Children

The Obama administration has officially announced that the president supports efforts to end children being subjected to anti-LGBT cure therapy, a move that is being hailed by LGBT rights campaigners and child welfare groups alike.

Writing in response to a White House petition that gathered over 120,000 signatures, the Administration affirmed conversion therapy is neither medically sound nor should be practiced on people who are too young to legally consent:

When assessing the validity of conversion therapy, or other practices that seek to change an individual’s gender identity or sexual orientation, it is as imperative to seek guidance from certified medical experts. 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.

As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.

As readers familiar with this issue will be aware, the practice of conversion therapy is widely discredited — indeed, there currently exists no peer-reviewed or consensus-backed evidence that change is even possible let alone desirable — and for that reason is rejected by major mainstream medical bodies including the American Psychological Association and the World Health Organization.

The initiative that prompted this response from the White House began after the suicide of 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn on December 28, 2014. Leelah left behind a suicide note that alleged her parents had taken her to see a Christian therapist who had tried to cure Leelah of her trans identity instead of helping to get Leelah the care she needed from a therapist who had experience dealing with gender dysphoria — namely, helping them to affirm their consistent identity and move toward transition,whatever that might mean for the individual. Leelah never received that care, which she cited as part of the reason why she felt she must take her own life.

As a result, campaigners began a two-pronged approach to make sure that anti-LGBT therapy could never harm a child again. A grassroots effort to enact a federal law, dubbed “Leelah’s Law,” has gained considerable momentum and support, and indeed this initiative is what the White House was responding to here. The law would make it unlawful for therapists to attempt to convert the sexuality or gender identity of patients under the age of 18. It would not preclude LGBT adults from choosing to subject themselves to those practices, as some opponents have claimed, but it would establish under federal law that this “therapy”— which is not really a therapy at all if it has no clinically proved efficacy — is damaging and not supported by science.

In a separate initiative, the National Center for Lesbian Rights is backing the “#BornPerfect” campaign which aims to end conversion therapy in the next five years by advocating for state bans like those that have been enacted in the District of Columbia, New Jersey and California — bans that have been challenged in court and constitutionality affirmed. 

The White House reply touches on both of these initiatives, saying:

In a 2013 signing statement for his state’s legislative ban, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie expressed that “exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of the benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate.”[3] In February 2015, a New Jersey Superior Court judge ruled that advertising a service that could change a person’s sexuality is fraudulent and violates the state’s consumer protection laws.

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.

At the moment it is undeniable that federal legislation would meet heavy resistance in the Republican controlled Congress, despite the fact that many moderate conservatives, and especially young conservatives, seem to oppose sexual orientation change efforts. There is a misguided notion that a ban would infringe religious rights, but as I have previously argued, and as the courts have affirmed, there is no religious right or free speech right to subject minors to unproven and potentially dangerous therapies simply because a parent’s interpretation of their religion means their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity is unsatisfactory.

Nevertheless, the White House’s stand on this issue is clear: Obama would like to see an end to this dangerous and unnecessary practice, and this unequivocal opposition to LGBT conversion therapy isn’t just a first for Obama, but for any siting U.S. President. That raises the bar significantly, and the hope is that with a less hostile Congress finally in place, legislation like a federal ban on LGBT “cure” therapy will be quite uncontroversial and will pass quickly. In the meantime, the state-level efforts will continue.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

65 comments

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Oliver Webb
Only Me2 years ago

He's a good man and I think history will regard him as such.

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Frank Hanline
Frank Hanline2 years ago

Hehe, I am a 2x voter AND canvassed for President Obama

Including in Smithfield, NC, where I got punched in the face.....

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Helga Ganguly
Helga Ganguly2 years ago

I'm a 2x voter for Obama and have never regretted the choice.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Janis K.
Janis K2 years ago

Thanks for sharing. I also am proud of having voted twice for Obama. He will turn out to be one of our greatest presidents, and make the republicans heads explode!

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Jane H.
Jane H2 years ago

I am proud to have voted twice for President Obama..Thank you for doing this, Mr. President!

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Tristan M.
Tristan M2 years ago

Even though I live in England, I still have SO much respect for Obama! He's a great man!

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Bill Eagle
Bill Eagle2 years ago

Good for our President. Perhaps we can put some of these conversion cure charlatans out of business.

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Mahmoud Khalil
Mahmoud Khalil2 years ago

thanks

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