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White House Says It Supports Efforts To Ban Gay Conversion Therapy

The White House said on Wednesday that it supports efforts to ban therapies aimed at converting gay and transgender minors into heterosexuals.

"Often, this practice is used on minors, who lack the legal authority to make their own medical and mental health decisions," White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said in a statement. "We share your concern about its potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer youth."

The White House released that statement in response to a petition calling for a ban that gathered more than 120,000 signatures. The petition was for its part sparked by the suicide of 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn, who wrote on a Tumblr post that her parents had forced her to go to conversion therapy.

Jarrett wrote that science has overwhelmingly demonstrated that conversion therapy hurts gay and transgender minors and that the practice is "neither medically nor ethically appropriate."

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

The New York Times, which first reported the story, adds:

"In an interview on Wednesday, Ms. Jarrett said Mr. Obama was moved by the story of Ms. Alcorn's suicide. But she said the problem went far beyond her.

"'It was tragic, but I will tell you, unfortunately she has a lot of company,' Ms. Jarrett said. 'It's not the story of one young person. It is the story of countless young people who have been subjected to this.'

"Mr. Obama will not explicitly call for a federal law banning therapists from using such therapies on their patients, but he is open to conversations with lawmakers in both parties, White House officials said on Wednesday. Instead, he will throw his support behind the efforts to ban the practice at the state level."

Some states, including California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia, have banned licensed therapists from practicing conversion therapy.

Last summer, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a similar measure into law, saying he waded into the issue "reluctantly."

"However, I also believe that on the issues of medical treatment for children we must look to experts in the field to determine the relative risks and rewards," Christie said in a signing note detailing the ill effects of conversion therapy. "I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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