Responding to a We the People petition begun after the suicide of trans teen Leelah Alcorn, who endured "reparative" therapy before her death, President Obama's administration expressed trepidations about the practice in a Wednesday statement. "We share your concern about its potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer youth," read a portion of the statement from White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, who added the administration supported efforts to ban use of the practice on youth; California, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., already have.
Response to the White House stance was very enthusiastic. "This is real news and a surprise," Rachel Maddow said on her MSNBC show (watch below).
House Minority Leader and California congresswoman Nancy Pelosi: "LGBT lives matter. Yet, we have lost too many loved ones who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender as the result of misguided, harmful efforts to shame, punish, and coerce LGBT Americans into denying who they are or who they love. President Obama's leadership on calling for an end to these practices serves as a clarion call for states to act swiftly to protect the lives of LGBT citizens, especially children and young adults, whose lives and dignity are at risk every time a medical professional or community member refuses to accept them. Under the leadership of Governor Jerry Brown, California leads the nation as the first state to ban this harmful practice and now is the time for other states to lead the charge until we have a national law that protects LGBT Americans from these practices."
Wayne Besen of the anti-conversion therapy group Truth Wins Out: "We are ecstatic that President Barack Obama spoke out against this harmful practice that psychologically terrorizes too many perfectly healthy LGBT youth and stigmatizes them as mentally ill. The President's wise words gave momentum to efforts to prohibit fringe practitioners from traumatizing vulnerable LGBT adolescents and calling it therapy."
New York congressmanJerrold Nadler: "As President Obama has said, sexual orientation change efforts -- colloquially known as 'conversion' or 'reparative' therapy -- have been widely discredited by nearly every major medical and mental health association across the nation, as not only unable to accomplish their stated goals, but harmful to youth. I believe that licensed mental health professionals should be prohibited from engaging in these deceptive and damaging practices. I am proud that President Obama has added his voice to the effort to end 'conversion' therapy nationwide."
New York State Sen.Brad Hoylman: "I'm hopeful that the White House's support of legislation to ban state-licensed 'conversion therapy' on LGBT youth will provide us in New York a renewed impetus to bring this bill to the Senate floor this year."
GLSEN executive directorEliza Byard: "Studies conducted by major mental health organizations and personal testimony from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth have shown that conversion therapy can create dangerous and even life-threatening effects, including depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse and suicidal behavior.
"We are thrilled that President Obama will call for an end to the use of conversion therapy on minors. It is a harmful and discredited practice that uses rejection, shame and psychological abuse aimed at changing one's sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
"Fifteen years ago, major medical, psychiatric and counseling associations rallied to GLSEN's side to beat back attempts to force this insidious practice into our schools. We salute them for their pioneering stance and thank the President for his leadership in protecting youth from these damaging and misguided practices."
Southern Poverty Law Center staff attorney Sam Wolfe: "President Obama's public support or a nationwide ban against the harmful practice of conversion therapy is an important step toward achieving equality for all LGBT youth and protecting them from the psychological abuse of being told they can and should change their sexual orientation.
"These bogus and dangerous conversion therapy services have no basis in science and are based on the lie that there is something wrong with LGBT people -- that they're sick and can be 'cured' or 'repaired.' The practice, in fact, has been thoroughly discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations."
American Psychological Association president Barry Anton: "So-called reparative therapies are aimed at 'fixing' something that is not a mental illness and therefore does not require therapy. There is insufficient scientific evidence that they work, and they have the potential to harm the client. APA has and will continue to call on mental health professionals to work to reduce misunderstanding about and prejudice toward gay and transgender people. A 2009 APA Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Response to Sexual Orientation concluded that mental health professionals should avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation due to a lack of evidence that such change is possible and the potential for such efforts to harm the patient's mental health.
"A Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts, which accompanied the task force report and was adopted by the APA Council of Representatives, advised that parents, guardians, young people and their families avoid sexual orientation treatments that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder. It recommended that they instead seek psychotherapy, social support and educational services 'that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth.'"