The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, known as SAMHSA, released a report Thursday that broke ground for the federal government by declaring that the available scientific evidence shows therapies designed to purportedly turn gay kids straight and transgender kids into cisgender kids are ineffective and potentially dangerous.
White House officials lauded the findings, which also fortify the Obama administration’s political efforts to make the practice illegal.
"It’s not our job to tell parents how to raise children," Valerie Jarrett, a senior White House adviser, said in a conference call with reporters to detail the findings Thursday morning, "but it is our responsibility to show parents the best scientific evidence when raising their children."
The report reaches three conclusions, according to SAMHSA researchers:
– Being attracted to the same gender, along with variations in gender identity and expression, "are a part of the normal spectrum of human diversity and do not constitute a mental disorder."
– None of the limited research shows the practice works at altering gender identity or sexual orientation.
– The interventions "are coercive, can be harmful, and should not be part of behavioral health treatment."
The full report – the first time the government has published consensus statements from a panel held by the American Psychological Association in July – is posted here.
SAMHSA cites the Family Acceptance Project, among other sources, which has found LGBT people "who experienced high levels of family rejection during adolescence fared significantly worse than those who experience low levels of family rejection in terms of depression, substance abuse, sexual risk behaviors, and suicide attempts."
Echoing arguments LGBT advocates have raised for years, the report reinforces the White House’s advocacy on the issue. In April, the White House responded to an online petition by announcing it supported a ban on conversion therapy nationwide and would support state legislative efforts to advance that goal.
Jarrett reaffirmed that position Thursday: "We have supported and would support making it illegal for young people," she said.
Illinois banned the practice this year; it is also prohibited in three other states – California, Oregon, and New Jersey – along with Washington, D.C.
However, Republican lawmakers have been fractured; some argue the bans could infringe on the religious liberty of parents who wants to steer children away from ostensibly sinful lifestyles.
Acknowledging that type of potential concern with the report, Elliot Kennedy, a special expert for LGBT affairs at SAMHSA, said Thursday, "We are very conscious this could be an issue that is controversial, but we focused on the wellbeing of children and depoliticized it as much as possible."