October 15, 2015 at 1:37 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Obama admin denounces ‘ex-gay’ therapy
Ebola, gay news, Washington Blade

The Obama administration has issued a report condemning “ex-gay” therapy. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Obama administration has issued a new report hailed as groundbreaking for outlining best practices to support LGBT youth, including a repudiation of widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy.

Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to Obama, said in a conference call with reporters the intent of the report is to ensure the advice that LGBT youth receive is “guided by love, nurturing and science.”

“It’s not our job to tell parents how to raise their children, but it is our responsibility to provide parents with the scientific evidence necessary in order for them to make the best possible decisions when raising their children,” Jarrett said. “We do strongly believe that young people should be valued for who they are no matter what they look like, where they’re from, the gender with which they identify, or who they love.”

The 76-page report, titled “Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth” was made public Thursday by the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, a group of medical and health experts within the Department of Health & Human Services.

“When dealing with a sensitive topic such as gender identity or sexual orientation in young people, it is essential that families, educators, caregivers, and providers seek the best available information and advice,” SAMHSA Acting Administrator Kana Enomoto said. “SAMHSA’s report provides this information, as well as resources young people, families and others can use to promote healthy development for all youth.”

The report offers recommendations for families, medical providers and educators to promote positive development for LGBT youth despite “the still pervasive interpersonal, institutional and societal bias and discrimination against sexual and gender minorities.”

Included in the report is guidance for families that may have objections to LGBT people based on religious and moral grounds that says parents “don’t have to choose between their LGBTQ child and their culture or their morals and values.”

“Many parents who are struggling believe that responding with positive reactions such as expressing affection once they learn that a child is LGBTQ will condone or encourage a behavior or identity that is at odds with their beliefs,” the report says. “However, expressing affection for an LGBTQ child is a key supportive behavior that helps protect their child against health risks and increases connectedness.”

A key component of the report is offering a path forward to ending conversion therapy aimed at changing a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity, which has been repudiated by all major medical and psychological organizations.

The path to ending this practice, according to the report, consists of reducing discrimination overall against LGBT people, disseminating information to behavioral health providers and changes in government policy.

“Many individuals, organizations, and several state legislatures have taken steps to regulate and eliminate the practice of conversion therapy,” the report says. “Efforts to end the practice of conversion therapy have included legislative bans and causes of action alleging consumer fraud, among others. Future efforts may include federal regulatory action, advancement of legislation at the state and federal level, and additional activities by the administration.”

In April, the Obama administration endorsed bans on conversion therapy, advocating a state-by-state path to prohibiting the practice. A total of four states and D.C. to date have passed laws barring conversion therapy for minors. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) has introduced legislation in Congress that seeks to bar conversion therapy across the country by classifying the practice as fraud.

Samantha Ames, staff attorney and #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, commended the Obama administration for what she called an “in-depth and lifesaving report.”

“For the first time in history, advocates are seeing our national leaders prioritize what is too often an issue of life and death for LGBTQ youth,” Ames said. “But, more importantly, young people are seeing their heroes stand up for them. We thank President Obama for his strong leadership on this issue and look forward to using the groundbreaking findings of this report to bring about a day when every child knows they were #BornPerfect.”

Jody Huckaby, executive director of PFLAG National, said the report offers a framework to confront a widely discredited practice seen to harm LGBT people.

“PFLAG’s concern for LGBTQ youth is at the heart of our collective efforts in providing support to families and education in our communities,” Huckaby said. “PFLAG National applauds the administration’s bold leadership in releasing the report ‘Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth.’ Thanks to this leadership we now have even further scientific research that supports our long-held position, for which we have persistently advocated: This harmful practice must be banned.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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