U.S. report tackles issue of conversion therapy for LGBT youth

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, (@susanheavey) a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on social determinants of health and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on resources and tip sheets at determinants@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Lesbian Romance via photopin (license)A new report by the Obama Administration presses for an end to so-called “conversion therapy” for young LGBT people.

Photo: Lesbian Romance via photopin (license)A new report by the Obama Administration presses for an end to so-called “conversion therapy” for young LGBT people.

Controversial conversion therapy targeting lesbian and gay young people should be banned, the Obama administration said, releasing a new report criticizing a practice that aims to convert such youth into a “straight” sexual orientation.

“We would support and have supported making it illegal for young people,” Valerie Jarrett, White House senior adviser, said during a press conference call about the report.

Asked whether the practice should also be banned for adults, Jarrett said, “Our focus has really been on banning conversion therapy for youth. Adults, in a sense, make their own decisions about what to do.”

The report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), released Oct. 15, is the latest push by the Obama administration to halt the largely discredited practice of attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation.

The White House in April issued its response to a petition that sought a ban of such therapy, affirming that it supported efforts to end such practices.

So far there is no federal ban, although Washington, D.C., and at least four states have banned the therapy for minors, according to the report. Similar legislation has been introduced in 21 states, but not yet passed, it said.

While federal legislation has been introduced, efforts by the Democratic White House to push a ban through a Republican-controlled Congress are considered unlikely as Obama approaches to the end of his second term.

Asked whether the report could be referenced by health insurance companies when making coverage decisions, Elliot Kennedy, SAMHSA special expert on LGBT affairs, said that while the findings were primarily aimed at giving young people and their parents accurate information, the administration would welcome its impact on a larger scale.

The Associated Press reported that one Republican legislator in New Hampshire is pushing for a statewide ban on conversion therapy. The Huffington Post recently examined at the draw of conversion therapy for some religious followers.

Here is some other recent coverage of the issue:

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