President Barack Obama says he supports efforts that would outlaw the practice of sexual orientation "conversion therapy" on minors.
The announcement came in response to a "We The People" online petition to the White House, calling on the Obama administration to "Enact Leelah's Law to ban all LGBTQ+ conversion therapy."
The proposed "Leelah's Law" is named after Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender youth who committed suicide in December. Alcorn's suicide note, which she posted on social media, explained that her parents forced to undergo conversion therapy.
Responding to the online petition, which garnered nearly 121,000 signatures, Obama said in a statement: "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. 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."
White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett tells the New York Times that the president will be backing state-level measures to outlaw conversion therapy, rather than advocating for federal legislation. Obama has, however, not ruled out working with federal lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to address the issue.
"When assessing the validity of conversion therapy, or other practices that seek to change an individual's gender identity or sexual orientation, it is as imperative to seek guidance from certified medical experts. 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," Jarrett writes in the We the People petition response. "As part of our dedication to protecting America's youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors."
In Illinois, legislation is pending in Springfield -- the Conversion Therapy Prohibition Act, HB 217 and SB 111 -- that would make it illegal for mental health care specialists to perform conversion therapies on patients under the age of 18.