- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 9, 2015

A White House announcement that all states should ban sexual orientation “conversion” therapy for youth has set the nation talking.

“We know well that gender identity and sexual orientation are not a choice, and we’re hoping this moment leads to a day when the country understands what we have known all along: that we’re perfect the way we are,” said Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, deputy managing director for United We Dream, an ally of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) community.

“As Lady Gaga famously said, ‘God makes no mistakes,’” Mr. Sousa-Rodriguez said, praising a statement posted Wednesday by President Obama and senior presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett that “supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”

“We are very pleased,” said Richard Yep, chief executive of the American Counseling Association.

“After years of the mental health professions saying such therapies don’t work — and can harm — it’s nice to have “the power of the White House behind us, saying, ‘Yeah, this is not a good thing for kids,’” he said.



But psychotherapist Christopher Doyle, director of the International Healing Foundation, countered that it’s wrong to think that all youth who experience same-sex attraction are gay.

If people are struggling with their sexuality and don’t want to identify as gay, it is not “conversion” to affirm their heterosexuality, said Mr. Doyle.

The White House statement means Mr. Obama “is turning his back on these youths — he’s basically saying that their choice and their rights don’t exist,” said Mr. Doyle, who is also president and co-founder of Voice of the Voiceless (VOV), an advocacy group for former homosexuals.

VOV has launched a #TherapyEquality campaign to argue against the state bans.

In addition, a group called Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity was created last year to “defend the rights of clients to pursue change-oriented psychological care” as well as “the rights of licensed mental health professionals to provide such care.” The alliance is associated with the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).

The White House statement came in response to a “We the People” petition drive that garnered more than 120,000 signatures.

The petition was started after the December suicide of an Ohio teen named Jason Alcorn, who had been seeking to become a girl named Leelah. The 17-year-old had been sent for counseling by his parents; in a suicide note signed as both “Jason Alcorn” and “Leelah,” the teen said the “very biased” Christian therapists hadn’t helped, and people should “fix society” to make the world safe for transgender people.

ABC News said Thursday that Carla Alcorn, the teen’s mother, declined to comment on the White House statement.

“We love our son Joshua very much and are devastated by his death. We have no desire to enter into a political storm or debate with people who did not know him,” the Alcorns said last year.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), which has started a #BornPerfect campaign to outlaw conversion therapies, cheered the White House.

“There are few things more powerful to our children’s self-esteem than having the president of the United States say you matter,” said Kate Kendell, executive director of the NCLR.

The #BornPerfect campaign said there are at least 16 states with bills to outlaw therapy for minors; bills in Colorado, Iowa and Oregon have passed at least one legislative chamber.

California, New Jersey and the District of Columbia already ban sexual orientation change efforts for minors, and courts have upheld some of those laws.

The therapy is at the heart of a major consumer-fraud case coming up in June in New Jersey, which pits a Jewish organization known as JONAH against several former clients and their mothers.

Sam Wolfe, staff attorney at Southern Poverty Law Center, which represents the youth in Ferguson v. JONAH, said Thursday that LGBT youth need to be protected from “the psychological abuse of being told they can and should change their sexual orientation.”

Other observers said the White House looks to be making a political statement.

It’s like a “closed door” for people who believe their same-sex attraction or gender dissonance is a problem they want to solve, said a statement from the Restored Hope Network, whose members support sexual orientation change efforts.

The administration has no business trying to direct people in their therapy needs, said David Kyle Foster, founder and director of the Mastering Life Ministries, which addresses a range of problems with “sexual brokenness,” including same-sex relationships.

Saying homosexuals are “born that way” and “cannot change” is “pure theater” aimed at gaining political power and shutting the mouths “of those who know the way of escape that God has provided for this and every other bondage,” he said.

The website SuchWereSomeofYou.org features testimonies of 29 former homosexuals who talk about what caused the struggle and their healing process, Mr. Foster said. These include Linda Jernigan, who said, “It doesn’t matter how you think you were born. You can be born again,” and Kegan Wesley, who said, “I had to say, ‘Lady Gaga, shut up. I was not born this way.’”

Retired neurosurgeon and possible Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson has said in the past that being gay is a choice but declined Thursday to condemn the change therapy.

“My position is that that kind of thing should be left to therapists and individuals,” Mr. Carson told CNN’s New Day.

Meanwhile, the White House said this week it had introduced an “all-gender” restroom in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

“The president is determined to lead by example,” Ms. Jarrett wrote in an op-ed for The Advocate magazine. Mr. Obama “has hired more openly LGBT Americans to serve in his administration than any other in history. And we have closely examined our internal policies on everything from benefits to restroom access to how we invite people to events to ensure that everyone who enters this building feels safe and fully respected.”

Jessica Chasmar contributed to this article.

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