In a statement posted on the White House's website Wednesday, President Obama's administration announced that it supports nationwide bans on conversion therapy for LGBT youth. The statement was responding to a "We the People" petition to outlaw the controversial therapy in honor of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender girl who committed suicide after being forced to attend conversion therapy by her parents, according to a blog post by Alcorn. According to The New York Times, Obama will not ask Congress to pass a federal law banning the practice, but will instead support bans on the state level. Securing an anti-conversion therapy law in every state won't come easily though, considering only two states and the District of Columbia currently have a ban on the books.
California and New Jersey, along with Washington D.C., are the only states that already forbid licensed therapists from using conversion therapies on minors. The White House's statement says: "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." According to the online statement, 18 other states have introduced similar bills since last year that would ban the therapies.
If all 18 of these bills become law, that will still leave 30 states without any ban on conversion therapies. Texas is the only state in the south central U.S., where LGBT rights are often more highly contested, with a bill in the works, leaving LGBT youth in those states unprotected from the harmful effects of these therapies.
The White House's statement says that conversion therapies are "neither medically or ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm." The American Psychiatric Association has opposed conversion therapy for years, which it's original statement from 1998 says is "based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder, or based upon a prior assumption that the patient should change his/ her homosexual orientation." According to a report by the American Psychological Association, therapies aimed at changing someone's sexual orientation can lead to depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) launched a campaign to end conversion therapies in the U.S. in the next five years, called #BornPerfect. The organization helped secure the current bans in California and New Jersey, and keeps track of legislation state by state. Here are the states that have introduced a ban on conversion therapy.
- New York
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia