One of the Obama White House’s more successful online innovations is the “We The People” petition process, which has long struck me as a good idea. It works like this: regular people can submit questions and/or ideas online; the public can vote on its favorites; and if enough people endorse the petition, the administration will offer an official response – and quite possibly take official action.
Last year, the White House raised the threshold for minimum number of votes – to get a response, an idea needs 100,000 endorsements – in order to help weed out more trivial questions.
This was not a trivial question. On the contrary, it’s another step forward on an important issue.
In yet another bold move in support of LGBT rights, the Obama administration announced late on Wednesday that it would support efforts to end so-called “conversion therapy” for gay and transgender youth. The decision comes in the wake of the tragic death of 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn, who referenced attempts by religious therapists to make her identify as a boy in her suicide note.The White House released a lengthy statement on its website, penned by longtime Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, calling for a ban on therapy which claims to “repair” LGBT youth. The statement supports a petition that has received over 120,000 signatures in the last few months.
“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 said. “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”
As Rachel noted on the show last night, referencing this New York Times report, President Obama has not yet called for an explicit federal ban against the so-called “conversion therapy” – sometimes referred to as “reparative therapy” – though the White House is prepared to explore options with lawmakers about how to curtail these dangerous programs.
The “therapy” is already banned in more than a dozen states.
The White House taking a firm stand against this practice coincides with the implementation of the administration’s policy preventing anti-gay discrimination among federal contractors. The move was announced in 2014, but formally took effect this week.