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Obama backs ban on treatment for youth with unwanted gay attractions

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 10, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- President Obama officially denounced reparative therapy for minors in a statement released on Wednesday in response to a "We the People" petition.

We the People is a WhiteHouse.gov initiative encouraging people to sign petitions. Any petition with over 100,000 signatures receives a response from President Obama, and a petition encouraging a ban on reparative therapy garnered more than 120,000 signatures.

The statement, which was written by senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, said, "As part of our dedication to protecting America's youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors."

According to the president, "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. 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 petition was brought forth after a 17-year old boy who tried to become female committed suicide in December of last year. 'Leelah' Alcorn left a suicide note online, which in part said that "either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself." 

Alcorn had attempted to become female, but his parents instead sent him to reparative therapy counseling. After the teenager's death, critics -- including gay militant Dan Savage -- targeted Alcorn's parents, saying their Christian beliefs had led to the death of their child.

Opponents of reparative therapy often call the practice "conversion therapy," accusing proponents of trying to change the sexual attractions of people with same-sex attraction. Additionally, as Jarrett did, they argue that "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."

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However, licensed clinical counselor Christopher Doyle, a proponent of reparative therapy and a member of two related organizations, said in a statement on Wednesday that "the whole premise of Mr. Obama’s statement—calling this counseling ‘conversion’ therapy is a misnomer."

 “Youth that seek therapy for unwanted same-sex attractions or gender identity conflicts believe there are specific causes for their attractions, such as sexual abuse, and this therapy helps them resolve those causes and the desires that are a consequence," said Doyle. "Counselors are not converting gay youth—they’re actually affirming their clients’ desires to live a heterosexual life. These laws would be a grave disservice to young people who wish to access counseling from licensed mental health care providers. No government intervention should seek to hinder this sincere desire for help.” 

Two states and the District of Columbia have made reparative therapy illegal for minors, and the White House's statement detailed that it wanted more states to take that step. Doyle, however, said that "there are many...sexually confused youth and questioning teens who would like the option of therapy that will help them resolve unwanted feelings and sexual attractions. To deny them access to licensed mental health care is unconscionable. It’s without excuse that this White House would rather keep these young people trapped in their struggle than allow them voluntarily to get help.” 

Jarrett also called upon families to "support their LGBTQ+ children." According to the advisor, "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."

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