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White House to urge end of conversion therapy to 'fix' gays

Leelah's Law is named in honor of a 17-year-old transgender girl who committed suicide in December following conversion treatment.

By Doug G. Ware
President Barack Obama addresses attendees during the LGBT Leadership Council fundraising gala, capitalizing in part on his recent decision to support same-sex marriage, at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., in 2012. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/d168821383cd53b7232dc39dc0a96eb4/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
President Barack Obama addresses attendees during the LGBT Leadership Council fundraising gala, capitalizing in part on his recent decision to support same-sex marriage, at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., in 2012. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, April 8 (UPI) -- Conversion therapy, a mental treatment intended to "repair" members of the LGBT community, is not an effective or ethical use of psychiatry among minors and should be abandoned and prohibited at the state level, the White House said Wednesday.

President Barack Obama will this week advocate legislation banning conversion therapy applied to people under 18, five months after a 17-year-old transgender girl, Leelah Alcorn, committed suicide following the treatment, The New York Times reported.

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The proposed ban of conversion therapy, called Leelah's Law, is the Obama administration's latest show of support for American gay rights. On Wednesday, the White House responded to a petition seeking the end of the therapy.

"We share [the] concern about its potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer youth," the White House said in an official response to the petition.

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"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."

In the past three months, the petition has been signed by more than 120,000 people. Also called "reparative" therapy, the controversial method is supported by ultraconservative social organizations and religious doctors, the Times reported.

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Leelah's Law wouldn't ban the treatment at the federal level, but it would outlaw the process at the state level, the White House said. Obama said he is open to discussing the proposed law with both Democrats and Republicans.

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Also this week, new legal restrictions went into effect aimed at offering further protection to homosexual federal workers and to weed out discrimination based on sexual orientation. Officials also announced a new gender-neutral restroom in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building for transgender persons uncomfortable with using either a men's or ladies' restroom.

"Equality under the law means equality under the law for everyone," U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in a statement praising the new protections. "But our efforts are far from finished. We will move with all haste, bringing to bear the full resources of this department to implement and enforce these new protections."

Advocates of conversion therapy say it helps non-heterosexual persons change their views and realize their true straight selves. California, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., have passed laws banning the practice on minors. Similar legislation has been raised in 18 other states.

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"More than 40 years ago, the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder, and in 1998 released a statement "[opposing] any psychiatric treatment, such as 'reparative' or 'conversion' therapy," the White House said.

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"This administration believes that young people should be valued for who they are, no matter what they look like, where they're from, the gender with which they identify, or who they love."

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