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White House calls for end to psychiatric therapies seeking to change sexual orientation

President Barack Obama has called for an end to psychiatric therapy treatments seeking to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of gay, lesbian and transgender youth. It comes in response to a petition.

The White House statement is in response to a petition calling for Obama to back a law to ban conversion therapy. The practice is supported by some socially conservative organizations and religious doctors.

The petition was started following the suicide in December of 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn (photo). She died after her parents forced her to attend conversion therapy, took her out of school and isolated her in an attempt to change her gender identity.

"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," the author of the White House statement, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said.

Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, welcomed the White House statement. "Having President Obama and the weight of the White House behind efforts to ban conversion therapy is so critical in the fight for transgender and LGB young people," Keisling said in a statement.

Jarrett told the petition's promoters they agreed with the effects of therapy treatment: "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 did not explicitly call for congressional legislation to ban the therapies nationwide. But Jarrett's statement highlighted 18 states which have introduced legislation similar to measures already in place in California, New Jersey and Washington, DC which ban licensed professionals from using conversion therapy on minors.

jm/rc (Reuters, AP)

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