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Middle East in flames, ready to go nuclear and Obama is worried about … “conversion therapies?’

Via NY Times

A 17-year-old transgender youth, Leelah Alcorn, stunned her friends and a vast Internet audience in December when she threw herself in front of a tractor-trailer after writing in an online suicide note that religious therapists had tried to convert her back to being a boy.

In response, President Obama this week will call for an end to such psychiatric therapies aimed at “repairing” gay, lesbian and transgender youth, White House officials said. His decision on the sensitive issue is the latest example of his continuing embrace of gay rights.

In a statement that was to be posted on Wednesday evening alongside a WhiteHouse.gov petition begun in honor of Ms. Alcorn, Mr. Obama condemned the psychiatric practice, sometimes called “conversion” or “reparative” therapy, which is supported by some socially conservative organizations and religious doctors. The petition has received more than 120,000 signatures in three months.

“We share your concern about its potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer youth,” the statement, written by Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, says, according to a copy obtained by The New York Times. “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”

In an interview on Wednesday, Ms. Jarrett said Mr. Obama was moved by the story of Ms. Alcorn’s suicide. But she said the problem went far beyond her.

“It was tragic, but I will tell you, unfortunately she has a lot of company,” Ms. Jarrett said. “It’s not the story of one young person. It is the story of countless young people who have been subjected to this.”[..]

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama’s top aides also heralded new protections for gay federal workers that went into effect this week. Last summer, Mr. Obama issued executive orders to ban discrimination on the basis of gender by federal contractors.

Officials also announced the creation of an “all-gender restroom” in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where many of the White House staff members work, to provide an additional option for transgender individuals who are not comfortable using either the men’s or women’s restrooms.

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