NCLR Applauds Virginia Bill Protecting Children from Conversion Therapy

SAN FRANCISCO (January 20, 2015)—Today, Virginia Delegate Patrick Hope and Senator Louise Lucas introduced a bill protecting children and their families from the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy, joining a growing number of states and jurisdictions to consider and pass legislation to put an end to the discredited practice.

The bill reflects the unanimous view of medical, mental health, and child welfare experts that attempts to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity are ineffective and unsafe, putting youth at risk of severe long-term health impacts, including depression, substance abuse, and even suicide.

“Today, more than ever, it is clear that state legislatures need to step up to the plate to protect LGBT youth from the dangerous and discredited practices of conversion therapy,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Staff Attorney and #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator Sam Ames. “We commend Delegate Hope and Senator Lucas, as well all the local organizers who have worked tirelessly to get this bill introduced and ensure all Virginian children are able to grow up in communities and families where they are loved for exactly who they are.”

California, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. have already enacted similar laws, and more than a dozen states have introduced similar legislation. Both the Ninth and Third Circuits have rejected attempts by anti-LGBT organizations to challenge the California and New Jersey laws, holding that they are valid exercises of states’ authority to protect public health and safety.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights has been at the forefront of the effort to protect youth and their families from these dangerous practices for two decades and helped pass legislation in California, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. In 2014, NCLR launched its #BornPerfect campaign to end conversion therapy over the next five years by passing legislation to protect youth from these ineffective and harmful practices, fighting in courtrooms to defend laws, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by attempts to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

NCLR and the Human Rights Campaign, are partnering with Equality Virginia and local advocates to support the Virginia bill.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

NCLR’s #BornPerfect Campaign Hosts Twitter Town Hall on Conversion Therapy

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (January 6, 2015)—The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) will host a Twitter town hall on Thursday, January 8 at 6:30 PM ET to discuss the dangers of conversion therapy, the efforts to stop these practices once and for all, and what the community can do.

The town hall is organized days after the tragic death of Leelah Alcorn, who took her life after facing years of rejection and enduring conversion therapy. Starting now, Twitter users can submit their questions using hashtag #BornPerfect.

The town hall panelists will include:

  • Kate Kendell, Esq. @KateKendell, NCLR Executive Director.
  • Maris Ehlers @mepinmin, sister of Kirk Murphy, who took his life at the age of 38 in 2003 after enduring conversion therapy as a child.
  • James Guay, LMFT @JamesTherapy, conversion therapy survivor, marriage and family therapist, and #BornPerfect Advisory Committee Co-Chair.
  • Rev. Dr. Justin Tanis @Justin_Tanis, Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry Managing Director and co-author of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.
  • Sam Ames, Esq. @SamSAmesEsq, NCLR Staff Attorney and #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator.

NCLR has been at the forefront of efforts to protect youth and their families from these dangerous practices for more than two decades and helped pass legislation in California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia. Earlier this year, NCLR launched its #BornPerfect campaign to stop conversion therapy across the country over the next five years by passing laws, fighting in courtrooms, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by attempts to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

NCLR Statement on the Loss of Leelah Alcorn

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (January 2, 2015)—Vigils will be held in Ohio tomorrow to remember 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn and to raise support and acceptance for transgender youth.

Alcorn, from the Cincinnati suburb of Kings Mills, took her own life early Sunday morning after facing years of rejection and enduring the dangerous practice known as conversion therapy.

“We are deeply saddened by Leelah’s tragic death,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Youth Policy Director Shannan Wilber, Esq. “Like countless LGBT youth across this country, Leelah struggled with the anguish and isolation of navigating a world in which her core identity was erased and rejected. Despite the gains we have achieved in securing the equal rights of LGBT people in many arenas, too many of our children continue to suffer the ravages of intolerance and bigotry. They are rejected at home, bullied at school, and condemned at church. They are subjected to discredited and dangerous interventions designed to change their core identities. They are abandoned by the institutions charged with ensuring their safety and well-being. It is impossible to make sense of the senseless loss of a child. But this tragedy strengthens our resolve to create a world in which all children are cherished and supported to become their authentic selves.”

NCLR started its Youth Project more than two decades ago to ensure the safety and well-being of LGBT youth at home, in school, and in public systems of care through litigation, policy advocacy, and systemic reform. The project prioritizes full integration and affirmation of transgender youth, fair and equal treatment of LGBT youth in out-of-home care, and ending conversion therapy through NCLR’s #BornPerfect campaign.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

D.C. Council Passes Groundbreaking Bill to Protect LGBT Youth from Conversion Therapy

WASHINGTON, D.C., (December 2, 2014)—Today, the District of Columbia Council unanimously approved a bill that will protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth from the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy.

When signed into law, Washington, D.C. will become the third jurisdiction—behind California and New Jersey—to pass legislation protecting LGBT youth from practices that are known to cause severe depression and even suicide.

“Today, the DC Council sent a powerful message to LGBT youth and their families that they are accepted, supported, and loved,” said Sam Ames, NCLR staff attorney and coordinator of the #BornPerfect campaign at the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). “The Council has used its authority to protect our most vulnerable youth from dangerous and discredited pseudoscience that tells them who they are is wrong, and reaffirmed the consensus of every major medical and mental health organization that all children are born perfect, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

NCLR, in conjunction with other organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, played a key role in organizing the coalition behind the bill, which was authored by Councilmember Mary M. Cheh. A broad range of groups supported the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, including national LGBT organizations, mental health organizations, faith leaders, youth advocates, reproductive justice groups, and civil rights organizations.

Earlier this year, NCLR launched the #BornPerfect campaign to protecting LGBT youth across the country from conversion therapy over the next five years by passing laws, fighting in courtrooms to ensure their safety, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by these dangerous practices.

NCLR’s #BornPerfect Campaign Forms Advisory Committee

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (October 22, 2014)—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights announced the formation of the #BornPerfect Advisory Committee, a group of conversion therapy survivors, child welfare and mental health experts, and faith leaders with unique insights into the harms of conversion therapy.

NCLR’s #BornPerfect campaign is a national effort aimed at ending conversion therapy in the next five years by passing laws across the country to protect LGBT youth, fighting in courtrooms to ensure their safety, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by these dangerous practices. The campaign is managed by Sam Ames, an attorney at NCLR who focuses on conversion therapy and youth issues.

The committee, led by Ames, is co-chaired by Samuel Brinton and James Guay, MFT, both of whom are survivors of these dangerous and discredited practices. Samuel Brinton, the Fellow for the Clean Energy Program at Third Way, is a recent graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with dual graduate degrees in nuclear engineering and policy, as well as the recipient of the 2014 Courage Award from NCLR along with fellow committee member Ryan Kendall. James Guay is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in LGBTQ affirmative psychotherapy and a member of GAYLESTA, the LGBTQ Psychotherapy Association.

Other members of the committee include Bill Bettencourt, child welfare expert and senior associate at the Center for the Study of Social Policy; Dr. Caitlin Ryan, clinical social worker and director of the Family Acceptance Project; Deb Cuny, survivor and chaplain in residence at St. Francis Memorial Hospital; Rev. Debra W. Haffner, ordained Unitarian Universalist minister and co-founder and president of the Religious Institute; Judith Glassgold, PsyD, licensed psychologist and chair and report co-author of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation; Kimberly Inez McGuire, reproductive justice advocate and director of public affairs at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health; Peter Drake, survivor and co-founder of the Coming Out Into Light Foundation; and Ryan Kendall, survivor and witness in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case that invalidated Proposition 8.

Ames and Brinton are scheduled to attend the United Nations Committee Against Torture meeting in Geneva, Switzerland the week of November 10 to educate the committee about the practice of conversion therapy in the United States. NCLR will be joining the U.S. Human Rights Network delegation to elaborate on a shadow report it authored earlier this month explaining that practices attempting to change sexual orientation or gender identity, especially among vulnerable youth, constitute “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” when practiced by individuals and torture per se when facilitated by the government under the Convention Against Torture.

“The time is long overdue for the United States to address the severe harms inflicted on young LGBT people and their families by purveyors of these dangerous and discredited practices,” said Ames. “Persuading the Committee Against Torture to take up the issue of conversion therapy on the international stage has the potential to save the lives of countless LGBT youth in the United States and around the world. Many of the same groups who advocate in favor of conversion therapy in the United States have supported laws in other countries criminalizing LGBT people, such as the ‘Kill the Gays’ bill in Uganda. These laws are often linked with attempts to ‘cure’ sexual orientation or gender identity, whether by coercion or force. Conversion therapy is damaging our human rights record both at home and around the world and creating a crisis the United Nations can and should address this November.”

“Speaking to the U.N. in Geneva will be one of the highlights of my life and my work to end the torture of conversion therapy,” said Brinton. “While I’ve sat across the table from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the need for the elimination of nuclear weapons, it will be this conversation which brings a tear to my eye, one seeking the elimination of a more personal threat. A few years ago no one seemed to care about the horrific experiences of survivors like myself. They truly believed that conversion therapy had be relegated to the dustbin of history. All that has changed. This Kansas boy is about to speak to the most powerful members in the world in a quest to end conversion therapy. You can’t change what we never chose.”

Conversion therapy has been discredited by every major medical and mental health association in the country. Nonetheless, practitioners continue to subject countless LGBT children to efforts to change their sexual orientation and gender identity, causing serious harms that include alienation from their families, severe depression, and even suicide. NCLR has been at the forefront of the effort to protect LGBT young people from these practices for more than 20 years, helping draft and pass the nation’s first laws protecting LGBT children from the dangers of conversion therapy and working in more than a dozen other states to bring protections to LGBT children across the country.

Learn more about the campaign.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

Federal Appeals Court Upholds New Jersey Law Prohibiting Conversion Therapy for Minors

COURT REJECTS ANTI-LGBT GROUPS’ CONSTITUTIONAL CHALLENGES TO LAW

TRENTON, N.J. (September 11, 2014)—Today, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit unanimously upheld a 2013 New Jersey law prohibiting licensed therapists from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender expression or identity of patients under 18 years old. The Court held that the New Jersey law does not violate the First Amendment and that the State of New Jersey was entitled to prohibit these discredited practices in order to protect minors from harm. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a similar California law last year.

The New Jersey law prohibits licensed therapists from subjecting minor patients to “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE), which the law defines as the practice of seeking to change a person’s sexual orientation, including, but not limited to, efforts to change behaviors, gender identity, or gender expressions, or to reduce or eliminate sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward a person of the same gender.”

Writing for the court, Circuit Judge D. Brooks Smith held that “over the last few decades a number of well-known, reputable professional and scientific organizations have publicly condemned the practice of SOCE, expressing serious concerns about its potential to inflict harm,” and that “[m]any such organizations have also concluded that there is no credible evidence that SOCE counseling is effective.”

The constitutionality of the New Jersey law was challenged in August 2013 in a lawsuit filed by anti-LGBT groups primarily representing therapists who engage in the prohibited practices. The case was assigned to federal district judge Freda Wolfson, who held that the law was a valid exercise of the state’s authority to regulate medical professionals to protect public health and safety. That ruling was appealed and heard by a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit in July 2014.

While applying a higher standard of review, the Third Circuit upheld Judge Wolfson’s judgment that the law is constitutional, stating: “Legislatures are entitled to rely on the empirical judgments of independent professional organizations that possess specialized knowledge and experience concerning the professional practice under review, particularly when this community has spoken with such urgency and solidarity on the subject.”

In the fall of 2013, Garden State Equality filed a successful motion to intervene in the lawsuit to defend the law alongside New Jersey Acting Attorney General John Jay Hoffman, who represents the State of New Jersey defendants. Garden State Equality is represented in the case by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the law firms of Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Gluck Walrath LLP. David Flugman of Kirkland & Ellis argued the case on behalf of Garden State Equality.

“The court’s decision today is a major victory for the thousands of young people who will now be protected from these dangerous and horrific practices,” said Andrea Bowen, Garden State Equality’s executive director. “No one should subject minors to conversion therapy—least of all state-licensed clinicians responsible for the care and well-being of their patients.”

Shannon Minter, NCLR’s Legal Director, said “This decision means that New Jersey youth will continue being protected from cruel and damaging practices that have been rejected by all leading medical and mental health professional organizations. The court of appeals’ ruling makes clear that state-licensed therapists do not have a constitutional right to engage in discredited practices that offer no health benefits and put LGBT youth at risk of severe harm, including depression and suicide. We thank Acting Attorney General John Jay Hoffman, Deputy Attorney General Susan Marie Scott, and the entire legal team at the Office of the Attorney General for their work defending this essential law.”

The New Jersey law, known as Assembly Bill A3371, had seventeen primary and co-sponsors in the Assembly and was signed into law by Governor Chris Christie on August 19, 2013. In the Governor’s Statement Upon Signing, Governor Christie noted the “critical health risks” posed by conversion therapy, including “depression, substance abuse, social withdrawal, decreased self-esteem and suicidal thoughts.”

Learn more about the case.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.