President Obama Endorses Legislation to Ban LGBTQ Conversion Therapy

( [email protected] ) Apr 09, 2015 06:36 PM EDT
Gay Conversion Therapy
The gay pride and American flag are seen at a demonstration. Photo by Stephen Lam/Reuters

Late Wednesday evening, the White House released an official response to an online petition to enact Leelah's Law to ban all LGBTQ "conversion therapy" for minors. 

"We share your concern about its potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer youth," Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president, wrote on the blog. 

This statement comes in response to the petition, posted to the "We the People" page of the White House website, and prompted by the December death of a transgender teen in Ohio.  Leelah Alcorn, 17-years-old, wrote in a suicide note about being "forced to attend conversion therapy."

As of Thursday morning, the petition had received nearly 121,000 signatures.

In Wednesday's statement, President Obama said the future of LGBTQ teens requires the support of family, friends, teachers and community, and that "it depends on us -- on the kind of society we engender, the kind of future we build."

The president - whose support for social issues like gay marriage has dipped and soared in the media for nearly 20 years - put his administration on the record as stating that it believes that it is unacceptable for anyone to say that any sexual orientation or gender identity is wrong. 

Furthermore, doing so may one day be illegal.  And for Christians who live out their lives each day abiding by God's word - which is clear on His design for men and women - the future may include legal action against them personally for practicing their First Amendment rights.

It isn't likely that a Republican-majority Congress will pass a sweeping ban on conversion therapy, but Jarrett is hopeful that actions taken by some states may set a precedent.

"While a national ban would require congressional action," she wrote, "we are hopeful that the clarity of the evidence combined with the actions taken by these states will lead to broader action that this Administration would support."

The District of Columbia, California and New Jersey have all banned professional therapists from using conversion therapy, and 18 other states are working on similar legislation. 

Jarrett also wrote that an effort to change an individual's sexual identity "has been shown in countless instances to have dangerous affects."

Rosario Butterfield wouldn't agree.  A former lesbian, champion for LGBTQ rights and English professor at Syracuse University, she came to Christ in 1999.  Since that time, she has shared her conversion story with many, has counseled young people on college campuses, responded to hateful comments with love and kindness, and on Monday's Desiring God blog wrote of "The Dead End of Sexual Sin."

"It was only after I met my risen Lord that I ever felt shame in my sin, with my sexual attraction, with my sexual history," she writes.  "Conversion brought with it a train wreck of contradictory feelings, ranging from liberty to shame. Conversion also left me confused."

In her books and blog posts, Butterfield writes of the several years' long process that led to her conversion to Christianity, and of the confusion that she worked through alongside other Christians. 

"In the writings of John Owen, I was shown how and why the promises of sexual fulfillment on my own terms were the antithesis of what I had once fervently believed," she wrote on Monday's blog. "Instead of liberty, my sexual sin was enslavement. This seventeenth century Puritan revealed to me how my lesbian desires and sensibilities were dead-end joy-killers."

On Wednesday evening, the president made it very clear that he will call for legislation to make it illegal to attempt to change the sexual orientation of any individual.   

This decision by big government then naturally raises the question - what does this mean for Bible-believing Americans who trust God's word to be true in all areas - including sexual identity? 

What will come of Christians who desire to see a conversion in those that are hurting?  What will be the fate of people, like Butterfield, were once lost and wondering but are now banned by their government to share the joy and hope of the gospel they have experienced?

In the White House statement, Jarrett wrote of the Obama administration's biggest concerns for LGBTQ youth - bullying, family acceptance and homelessness - and said "too many LGBTQ+ youth...lack this support system, which can have devastating consequences."

And she's exactly right.  We live in a fallen world run by and inhabited by sinners.  Sinners who were created to worship something - and when Christ is not the focus of that worship - brokenness and despair abound, despite the best of intentions. 

Regardless of the environment they call home, America's children are being brought up in a society whose popular culture praises individuality and acceptance to a fault.  The focus is on the here and now - on worldly acceptance - and has no regard for one's soul or eternity.

On Wednesday, Jarrett said that the White House's plan to ban conversion therapy on minors is "part of the administration's efforts to protect America's youth."

But why doesn't the protection of this country's youth involve the entire person - including the soul?

As the petition states, "Therapists that engage in the attempt to brainwash or reverse any child's gender identity or sexual orientation are seriously unethical and legislation is needed to end such practices that are resulting in LGBTQ+ deaths."

Both the petition and the president are specifically calling out therapists but Christians must acknowledge the writing on the wall.  It's not a question of if the government will attack the very theology that shapes their Christianity, but when.

For Butterfield, the advice to any LGBTQ child or teen - or anyone searching, hurting, and longing for acceptance - is short.  "What then should an unbeliever do? Cry out to God for the Holy Spirit to give him a new heart and convert his soul."

But no one says it better than Jesus Christ in Matthew 11:

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."