With a U.S. national debt of $18.2 trillion or so, wars raging across the Middle East and another surge in illegal border crossings, President Barack Obama has decided to call for a national moratorium on conversion therapy for gay, lesbian and transgender people under the age of 18.
Obama declared his opposition to such conversion therapy in a lengthy statement on Wednesday in response to a WhiteHouse.gov petition which had garnered nearly 121,000 signatures (as of the wee hours of Thursday morning).
“Tonight, somewhere in America, a young person, let’s say a young man, will struggle to fall to sleep, wrestling alone with a secret he’s held as long as he can remember,” the president’s comma-burdened statement by Valerie Jarrett began. “Soon, perhaps, he will decide it’s time to let that secret out. What happens next depends on him, his family, as well as his friends and his teachers and his community. But it also depends on us — on the kind of society we engender, the kind of future we build.”
The White House statement went on to condemn “‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy” — counseling treatment designed to transform a person’s sexual orientation from gay to straight.
“The medical and mental health communities have long made clear that they reject the practice of conversion therapy, aimed at ‘changing’ one’s sexual orientation,” it said.
“As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”
Obama said he will not explicitly ask the Republican Congress to ban conversion therapies, though he is open to such a ban. Without one, he plans to lean on state legislatures in unspecified ways, The New York Times notes.
The genesis of the petition concerns Leelah Alcorn, a teenage boy born with the name Joshua Ryan Alcorn. On Dec. 27, 2014, Alcorn posted a suicide note on a Tumblr webpage and then committed suicide by walking in front of a semi-trailer truck.
In the suicide note, Alcorn charged that his parents had pulled him out of school and compelled him to attend religion-based conversion therapy.
“Therapists that engage in the attempt to brainwash or reverse any child’s gender identity or sexual orientation are seriously unethical and legislation is needed to end such practices that are resulting in LGBTQ+ deaths,” the petition asserts.
“We respectfully seek your help to ban the practice known as ‘conversion therapy’ and name the bill in honor of Leelah Alcorn.”
Eliza Byard, the executive director or the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, thanked Obama in a press release obtained by The Daily Caller.
“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,” Byard said.
A trail of Internet postings by the teen show a troubled family relationship in which the parents’ emphasis on religion and the teen’s rejection of their religion as well as his sexual identity proved toxic.
Carla Wood Alcorn, the teen’s mother, told CNN the family couldn’t afford sex reassignment surgery for their son, according to the International Business Times.
“I loved my son,” the bereaved mother said. “He was a good kid, a good boy.”
In a Facebook post she would later take down, she wrote: “My sweet 16-year-old son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn, went home to Heaven this morning,” according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.