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After LGBTQ groups applied pressure and more than 140,0000 people signed a Change.org petition, Google has removed a conversion therapy app from its online store.
"After consulting with outside advocacy groups, reviewing our policies, and making sure we had a thorough understanding of the app and its relation to conversion therapy, we've decided to remove it from the Play Store, consistent with other app stores," Google said in a statement released to Axios Thursday night. Google had previously said the app "didn't clearly violate its Play Store terms of service," Axios reports.
Truth Wins Out was behind the petition calling on Google to remove the free app, created by Living Hope Ministries. The app called homosexuality a "destructive lifestyle" and a "stomach-ulcer-of-a-life." It called gay men "sexually broken guys" and said transgender people suffer from "gender confusion.
Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon had all discontinued it shortly after Truth Wins Out started petitions to them in December, but Google lagged, the organization noted in a press release.
"We are delighted that Google finally backed down and deleted a dangerous app that targeted LGBTQ youth with toxic messages of guilt and shame," Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen said in the release. "It is still unfathomable why Google stubbornly defended the indefensible for months, when the hateful and destructive content in this app should have been self-evident. We hope this sends a powerful message that 'pray away the gay' products are unacceptable and have no place in a decent and civilized society."
All major medical and mental health groups have stated that conversion therapy, designed to turn LGBTQ people straight and cisgender, is not only ineffective but harmful. "The American Psychiatric Association says that sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) can lead to 'anxiety, depression, and self-destructive behavior,' including suicide," Truth Wins Out wrote in its petition.
The Human Rights Campaign had dropped Google from its Corporate Equality Index because of its refusal to remove the app. After the Thursday announcement, HRC President Chad Griffin released a statement saying, "We applaud Google for making the right decision to pull this app from their online store. So-called conversion therapy is a debunked practice that's tantamount to child abuse and is proven to have dangerous consequences for its victims. Google and other platforms that have pulled this app are taking an important step to protect LGBTQ youth."
The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization serving LGBTQ youth, also issued a statement praising Google's decision. "The very idea that sexual orientation and gender identity should be changed is junk science," said Amit Paley, the group's executive director and CEO. "We are glad Google has joined the rest of the technology sector in its rightful rejection of the dangerous and discredited practice which harms the LGBTQ youth we serve each day."
The petition to Google was the largest LGBTQ rights petition on Change.org to date, according to a press release from the platform. "This is what people power looks like, when 140,000 people can convince one of the largest companies in the world to take a bold stand against the dangers of ex-gay therapy," Michael Jones, managing director of campaigns at Change.org, said in the release. "This was the perfect storm of online pressure and institutional activism from the LGBTQ movement, and ... supporters can claim a big win in convincing tech companies to stand up for equality."