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Obama Calls for End to Gay 'Conversion' Therapy Following Leelah Alcorn Suicide

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty

President Obama made one of his administration’s strongest advances in support of LGBT rights on Wednesday, calling for an end to gay “conversion” therapies.

The statement came in response to a White House petition posted in January following the December suicide of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender youth.

“This Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors,” the statement (written by senior Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett) reads, after noting that “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.”

Jarrett said the president was moved by Alcorn’s story, though she added, “[Alcorn] has a lot of company. It’s not the story of one young person. It is the story of countless young people who have been subjected to this.”

White House officials said that Obama will not be pushing for a law explicitly banning conversion therapy but will be supporting state-level efforts against the practice and “is open to conversations with lawmakers in both parties,” according to The New York Times.

“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 statement says.

“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 Obama administration also announced this week that it had opened a gender-neutral bathroom in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where the majority of the White House staff works.

“The White House allows staff and guests to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity,” White House spokesman Jeff Tiller, according to The Washington Times. “In addition, an all-gender restroom is also available in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which provides guests and staff an additional option.”

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