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Washington (AFP) — US President Barack Obama is calling for an end to so-called conversion therapies that seek to change sexual or gender orientation of young homosexuals or transgenders.

The call is in response to a petition on the White House website that was launched after the death of 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn, a transgender youth who committed suicide in December.

In a note posted online before her death, Alcorn wrote about being forced to undergo conversion therapy by her parents.

Obama said young people must be given the right to choose and live safely regardless of sexual orientation.

“Tonight, somewhere in America, a young person, let’s say a young man, will struggle to fall to sleep, wrestling alone with a secret he’s held as long as he can remember,” Obama said in a statement Wednesday.

“What happens next depends on him, his family, as well as his friends and his teachers and his community. But it also depends on us — on the kind of society we engender, the kind of future we build.”

The online petition has received more than 120,000 signatures in the past three months.

Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to Obama said the therapy, also called “reparative” treatment, are morally and medically damaging.

“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 in a statement.

“As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”

Obama has been a vocal supporter of gay rights, both on US soil and abroad and is the first US president to come out in support of same-sex marriage.

Photo: Mandel Ngan via AFP

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