WASHINGTON — Responding to a petition begun when a transgender teenager died from suicide after being subjected to therapy meant to alter her gender identity, the White House announced on Wednesday it supports banning the so-called conversion practices.
Writing an official administration reaction to the petition, which garnered more than 120,000 signatures, President Barack Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett wrote 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.”
“As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors,” Jarrett wrote.
A federal ban on the practice, which its proponents claim can covert people from gay to straight, would require congressional approval, Jarrett noted. She urged individual states to ban the therapy given studies showing its potential harm to those subjected to it.
Some states, including California and New Jersey, have also put in place bans on conversion therapy.
The American Psychiatric Association has found no evidence that conversion therapies are effective, and advocates against their use because of the psychological risks they pose, including depression and anxiety.
Obama has taken numerous steps in the last year to bolster the rights of gays and lesbians, including signing an executive order barring discrimination based on sexual orientation within the federal government and at federal contractors. That order went into effect on Wednesday.
In a symbolic step, the administration also said on Wednesday it had opened a gender-neutral bathroom within the White House complex.
The “all-gender restroom” is in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next door to the West Wing, within the White House complex where many White House employees have meetings and offices.
The White House now allows staff and guests to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity, including in the West Wing.
“The White House allows staff and guests to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity, which is in keeping with the administration’s existing legal guidance on this issue and consistent with what is required by the executive order that took effect today for federal contractors,” White House spokesman Jeff Tiller told CNN. “In addition, an all-gender restroom is also available in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which provides guests and staff an additional option.”
While the White House is highlighting these bathroom changes now, in conjunction with the implementation of the executive order, it’s unclear when the change actually occurred.
The news of the new bathroom was first reported Wednesday afternoon by “The Advocate.”