Earlier this year, transgender teen Leelah Alcorn committed suicide and said, in her suicide note, that her family had forced her to see Christian therapists who told her that she was "selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help." Soon after, a White House petition was launched on Change.org, calling for a national ban on so-called "conversion therapy" for gay and transgender youth. The petitioners want a new law, called "Leelah's Law" to enforce this ban.
Just in case you think that signing all those Change.org petitions doesn't do anything: Yesterday the White House responded to the petition, agreeing that conversion therapy is a very bad thing. (In related news, the White House also warned against running with scissors and staring into the sun.)
According to a release by White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett: "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. As part of our dedication to protecting America's youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors. ... Negative family reactions to LGBTQ+ youth can be perceived as rejection by children, often contributing to serious health issues and inhibiting a child's development and well-being. And when it comes to LGBTQ+ youth, some actions by family and caregivers can be harmful, despite even the best intentions."
There's a long road ahead, of course. So far, only California, New Jersey, and Washington, DC have banned conversion therapy for minors. There are bans pending in other states, but Republicans continue to vote them down -- as happened in Virginia recently. Still, people spoke up, via a petition, and the White House listened. And that, people, is what we call a very good start.
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