This week the White House announced opposition to so-called "conversion therapy." The disclosure coincides with the 20th annual Northeast LGBT College Conference set for tonight at the University at Albany.
President Barack Obama is solidly behind efforts to stop "conversion therapy" - which seeks to change the sexual orientation of gay, lesbian and transgender youth. The American Psychiatric Association has long opposed the practice, which the organization says is based on the assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder.
There are more than 120,000 signatures on a White House petition supporting a proposed federal law named for Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender person who committed suicide in December after disclosing her parents forced her to attend conversion therapy.
While Congress is unlikely to act on "Leelah's Law," Obama's stance is expected to boost state-level efforts to ban the treatment.
Allison Steinberg is Communications Director for Empire State Pride Agenda. "In New York State a bill to protect LGBT youth from conversion therapy was introduced last year, and we saw very swift movement, with strong bipartisan support in the New York State Assembly. We're very hopeful with that news, as well as the governor's support, that this year, this bill will be signed into law."
The bill is sponsored by two Manhattan Democrats: Assemblywoman Deborah Glick and Senator Brad Hoylman. California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia have laws on the books banning the practice.
Hayley Gorenberg is an attorney for Lambda Legal, the non-profit assisting in the push to pass anti-conversion therapy legislation in New York. "These are family-wreckers, these efforts to convert children from their identity, from who they are. The more families understand that this is a useless effort and a dangerous one, the more families will be preserved."
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy is scheduled to give the welcome message and kickoff the 20th Annual Northeast Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender College Conference at the University at Albany’s SEFCU Arena. "I'm extremely proud and honored that this amazing conference of lesbian and gay and bi-sexual transgender college students from across the northeast are coming here to Albany County. There's going to be well over 900 people there for their conference for the next three days, and it really highlights how far New York State has come."
The event is being combined with the National Latino Collegiate Conference and the Asian Pacific American Conference. "It's tough enough when you go off to college and you're on your own for your first time. And you may think that you're different than everyone else, and at the end of the day, you're not different than anyone else," said McCoy.
The conference runs through Sunday.