#BornPerfect: A Year In, and We’re Not Backing Down

By Sam Ames#BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator & Staff Attorney

A year ago, we set out with a goal—protect LGBTQ children from conversion therapy by wiping out the dangerous and discredited practice in just five years.

Since then, our #BornPerfect campaign has helped protect thousands of kids across the country from practices linked to severe depression, substance abuse, and even suicide. And we couldn’t have done it without you by our side.

Here’s a snapshot:

  • In #BornPerfect’s first year, we helped bring laws to Washington D.C., Oregon, and Illinois that protect LGBTQ kids from being subjected to “treatment” that falsely claims to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. This brings us to FIVE jurisdictions that have passed these laws (NCLR helped pass similar legislation in California in 2012 and in New Jersey in 2013).
  • We successfully defended several of those laws in court against constitutional challenges. Last summer, NCLR intervened on behalf of New Jersey’s Garden State Equality and helped win the case in the U.S. Court for the District of New Jersey, followed by the U.S Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The Supreme Court declined to review the favorable ruling, sending the law into effect earlier this year.
  • We made history at the United Nations in Geneva last fall when we testified before the Committee Against Torture, which expressed its concern over the practice that’s still being used on LGBTQ youth across the United States. Just months later, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a landmark report calling on governments around the world to take action to end conversion therapy once and for all.
  • We worked closely with the White House this spring to support President Obama, Senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett, and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in calling on states to pass legislation protecting youth from practices to change sexual orientation and gender identity that have been condemned by every major medical and mental health association.
  • We worked with Congressman Ted Lieu to introduce a federal bill months ago that would define the practice of conversion therapy as illegal consumer fraud. If passed, this law could effectively cripple the conversion therapy industry, making for-profit conversion therapy illegal nationwide. The introduction built on three years of groundbreaking work by Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who in 2012 introduced the first federal bill to deal with conversion therapy—the Stop Harming Our Kids (SHOK) Resolution.

Many considered our goal ambitious. But with your faith and support, we have been able to make history time and time again. From the entire #BornPerfect team, and from all the survivors who have been empowered by your support to tell their stories, we can’t thank you enough.

We know the next four years won’t be easy. We’ve seen our opponents come out in force in states from California to Oklahoma, where, just a few months ago, we beat back legislation that would have made conversion therapy immune from regulation. But, with you by our side, we won. And, with you by our side, we’re going to keep on winning.

Together, we’re going to stand up for our kids. And we promise we won’t back down until the day every child knows they were #BornPerfect.

Illinois Becomes Fifth Jurisdiction to Protect LGBTQ Kids from Conversion Therapy

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (August 20, 2015)—Today, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 217 into law, making Illinois the fifth jurisdiction—behind California, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, and Oregon—to protect LGBTQ youth from the dangers of conversion therapy.

House Bill 217, which protects LGBTQ youth from mental health providers attempting to change their sexual orientation or gender identity through these practices, which are linked to substance abuse, extreme depression, and suicide, was overwhelmingly approved by the Illinois House of Representatives and General Assembly. The law will go into effect January 1, 2016.

“We are thrilled that Illinois has joined the rapidly growing number of states leading the way to protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy,” said the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator and Staff Attorney Sam Ames. “Illinois families can now have confidence that the mental health professional they turn to in times of uncertainty may not use their state license to profit from their children’s pain. Most importantly, Illinois kids can now rest easy in the knowledge that they cannot be forced or coerced to undergo dangerous and discredited treatments to fix who they are. Today brings us one step closer to the day when all LGBTQ youth know they were born perfect.”

“With this tremendous step, LGBT youth in Illinois are now protected from a dangerous and appalling practice based on junk pseudoscience that amounts to nothing less than child abuse,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin. “Discredited by every major mental health, medical, and child welfare organization, conversion ‘therapy’ uses fear and shame to tell young people the only way to find love and acceptance is to change the very nature of who they are. We thank Governor Rauner, as well as members of the state legislature on both sides of the aisle, for putting politics aside and the well-being of children first. We will continue to work with our allies to secure these crucial protections in every state across the nation.”

NCLR and HRC, in conjunction with the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, Equality Illinois, and other groups, played a key role in organizing the coalition behind the bill. A broad range of groups supported HB 217, including national LGBTQ organizations, mental health organizations, faith leaders, youth advocates, and civil rights organizations. NCLR and HRC have partnered with state equality groups across the nation to pass state legislation to end this dangerous practice, including laws passed in California, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Oregon, and now Illinois.

Last year, NCLR launched its #BornPerfect campaign to stop conversion therapy across the country by 2019 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. Illinois is the third state to pass such a law in 2015 alone.


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 Applauds American Bar Association Resolution Calling for Laws that Protect LGBTQ Youth From Conversion Therapy

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (August 6, 2015)—The American Bar Association this week passed a resolution calling on federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal governments to enact laws prohibiting state-licensed professionals from subjecting LGBTQ minors to conversion therapy and to protect all youth in their care from these dangerous and discredited practices.

NCLR #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator Sam Ames said: “The American Bar Association and the nearly 400,000 lawyers it represents made history by taking a stand against the dangerous and scientifically discredited practices of conversion therapy. We are elated that the ABA has affirmed its commitment to fight for the full equality of the most vulnerable among us by joining mental health professionals, faith leaders, youth advocates, and civil rights organizations across the country in pledging to use their power to protect the physical, mental, and emotional safety of the next generation of LGBTQ youth. NCLR is honored to have worked with the ABA on this lifesaving resolution that brings us one step close to the day all children know they were born perfect.”

NCLR has been at the forefront of efforts to protect youth and their families from conversion therapy for more than two decades and, alongside the Human Rights Campaign and state equality groups, has helped pass legislation in California, New Jersey, Oregon, and the District of Columbia. NCLR launched its #BornPerfect campaign last year to stop conversion therapy across the country by 2019 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.

New Jersey Jury Finds JONAH Guilty of Consumer Fraud

A Day After President’s Condemnation Of Conversion Therapy, Jury Reaches Verdict

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (June 25, 2015)—After hours of deliberations, a New Jersey jury found Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) liable for consumer fraud. JONAH, a group that promised gay men that it would turn them into heterosexuals, was sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2012 under New Jersey’s consumer fraud law.

The closely-watched trial unveiled the deplorable and inhumane techniques JONAH used to “convert” the men. The verdict comes on the heels of President Obama’s remarks on Wednesday—at the annual White House Pride reception—about conversion therapy: “I support efforts to ban conversion therapy for minors.  It has no basis in science. Every young person—no matter who they are or what they look like or what gender they identify as—deserves to be valued and loved for who they are.”

Statement from National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Senior Staff Attorney Christopher Stoll:

“Today’s verdict is a major victory in the fight to end the shameful and deceptive practice of conversion therapy. Too often, vulnerable young people and their families are lured into believing the false promises offered by groups like JONAH that they can “cure” gay people by changing their sexual orientation or gender identity. Today’s verdict sends a clear message to those who seek to prey on the fears of those who are just beginning to come to terms with their sexual orientation or gender identity: if you falsely promise a non-existent “cure” for a disease that does not exist, you will be held responsible. We congratulate our colleagues at the Southern Poverty Law Center for this important victory.” 

NCLR has been at the forefront of efforts to protect youth and their families from conversion therapy for more than two decades and, alongside the Human Rights Campaign and state equality groups, has helped pass legislation in California, New Jersey, Oregon, and the District of Columbia. NCLR launched its #BornPerfect campaign last year to stop conversion therapy across the country by 2019 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.

Illinois Bill Protecting LGBT Youth from Conversion Therapy Moves to Governor

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (May 29, 2015)—Today, the Illinois State Senate voted 34-19 to pass House Bill 217, the Illinois Youth Mental Health Protection Act that will protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth from the dangerous and discredited practices of conversion therapy. The bill was overwhelmingly approved 68-43 by the State House earlier this month and is heading to the desk of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.

If signed into law, the bill would make Illinois the fifth jurisdiction—behind California, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, and Oregon—to enact a law protecting LGBT youth from the lifelong damage caused by these practices, which have been linked to substance abuse, depression, and even suicide.

National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) #BornPerfect™ Campaign Coordinator Sam Ames said: “We couldn’t be prouder to add Illinois to the list of legislatures that have acted to protect LGBT youth, and we applaud the dedication of Equality Illinois and the tireless coalition on the ground. We hope Governor Bruce Rauner will join fellow Republicans like Chris Christie, who signed New Jersey’s conversion therapy ban in 2013. No matter our sexual orientation, gender identity, or political party, we can all agree that children’s lives are worth protecting. We call on Governer Rauner to sign this lifesaving bill and protect LGBT youth and their families from these dangerous and fraudulent practices.”

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said: “By passing this important legislation, Illinois lawmakers on both sides of the aisle stood up for equality and against a dangerous practice that uses fear and shame to tell young people the only way to find love or acceptance is to change the very nature of who they are. Psychological abuse has no place in therapy, no matter the intention. We urge Governor Rauner to sign this bipartisan legislation into law and protect the state’s youth from this harmful and discredited practice.”

NCLR and HRC, in conjunction with Equality Illinois, played a key role in organizing the coalition behind the bill. A broad range of groups supported HB 217, including national LGBT organizations, mental health organizations, faith leaders, youth advocates, and civil rights organizations.

HRC and NCLR have partnered with state equality groups across the nation to pass state legislation to end this dangerous practice, including the laws passed in California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia. In August of 2013, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California’s law, which was signed by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown in 2012. On Monday May 4, 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to uphold New Jersey’s law, which was signed by Republican Governor Chris Christie in August of 2013. NCLR attorneys have assisted in the defense of every state bill to date.


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.

Oregon Becomes Fourth Jurisdiction to Protect LGBT Kids from Conversion Therapy

SALEM, Ore. (May 21, 2015)—The National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Human Rights Campaign applaud Oregon Gov. Kate Brown for signing House Bill 2307 into law, making Oregon the fourth jurisdiction—behind California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia—to protect LGBT youth from the dangers of conversion therapy.

Today, Brown held a bill-signing ceremony to celebrate House Bill 2307, which protects LGBT youth from mental health providers attempting to change their sexual orientation or gender identity through practices that are linked to substance abuse, extreme depression, and suicide. It goes into effect immediately.

“We could not be prouder that Oregon has joined the ranks of states leading the way to protect LGBT youth from conversion therapy,” said the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator and Staff Attorney Sam Ames. “Oregon families can now have confidence that a trusted professional will not use their state license to profit from their children’s pain, and Oregon kids can now rest easy in the knowledge that they are protected from being forced or coerced to undergo treatment for who they are. We are one step closer to the day when all LGBTQ youth know they were born perfect.”

“Oregon has sent a strong message—one of hope, acceptance, and love for young people who happen to be LGBT,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Thanks to the state’s leaders who stood up against discrimination, LGBT young people in the state are now protected from this destructive and demeaning practice that should have no place in any therapy – a practice that uses fear and shame to tell them the only way to find love or acceptance is to change the very nature of who they are. HRC and our partners are proud to have played a role in this victory and are committed to passing these same protections nationwide.”

NCLR and the Human Rights Campaign, in conjunction with Basic Rights Oregon and other groups, played a key role in organizing the coalition behind the bill, which was sponsored by State Representative Rob Nosse. A broad range of groups supported HB 2307, including national LGBT organizations, mental health organizations, faith leaders, youth advocates, and civil rights organizations.

The bill signing ceremony comes the same week that U.S. Congressman Ted W. Lieu introduced the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, the first nationwide bill that would protect LGBT people from the dangers of conversion therapy. Lieu announced the bill at a press conference on Tuesday that was attended by survivors of conversion therapy, members of the mental health and medical community, faith leaders, and representatives from NCLR, HRC, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

HRC and NCLR have partnered with state equality groups across the nation to pass state legislation to end this dangerous practice, including laws passed in California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia. In August of 2013, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California’s law, which was signed by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown in 2012. On Monday May 4, 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to uphold New Jersey’s law, which was signed by Republican Governor Chris Christie in August of 2013. NCLR attorneys have assisted in the defense of every state bill to date.


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.