Following months of pressure, Google removes anti-gay conversion therapy app

Following months of pressure, Google removes anti-gay conversion therapy app

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LGBTQ groups are claiming victory following Google’s decision Thursday to stop offering an app by a ministry that included material considered “ex-gay” involving conversion therapy, which is the practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation.

The group Truth Wins Out has been at the forefront in the fight against the practice.

“Today is a major victory for those who want to protect LGBTQ youth from charlatans,” said Wayne Besen, Philadelphia resident and founder of Truth Wins Out. “We have clearly sent the message that dangerous and discredited products designed to ‘pray away the gay’ have no home on mainstream online stores.”

Besen added that the app targeted LGBTQ youth with toxic messages of guilt and shame.

Besen said Google removed the app partly because of a four-month pressure campaign that included a Change.org petition that received more than 142,000 signatures.

While attempts to reach Google for comment were unsuccessful, Human Rights Campaign officials said part of the reason Google removed the app was because it had applied pressure on the company to do so. HRC had warned the company that its score on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index would be suspended when the index was released if the app wasn’t taken down.

HRC considers its 2019 Corporate Equality Index “the national benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer employees.”

Google, according to HRC’s criteria in the 17th annual edition of its index, earned 100 percent, and it got the same perfect score in 2018.

Google is also listed as one of the 181 major employers to have signed on to HRC’s push for the Equality Act, which would add clear, comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people around the country.

The latest Index was released Thursday. The app had not been removed by Google and the company’s score was suspended.

It was just the third time HRC has suspended a score. HRC's previous decisions to suspend company scores were over discrimination lawsuits made by transgender workers: Walmart in 2018 and Saks Fifth Avenue in 2015. Both suspensions were lifted after remediation.    

Later Thursday, Google removed the app. HRC verified the app’s removal and lifted the suspension and removed references to it.

“We applaud Google for making the right decision to pull this app from their online store,” HRC President Chad Griffin said. “So-called conversion therapy is a debunked practice that’s tantamount to child abuse and is proven to have dangerous consequences for its victims. Google and other platforms that have pulled this app are taking an important step to protect LGBTQ youth.”

In December 2018, Apple pulled the app and Microsoft did the same. Within days, Amazon did so as well. Google, however, kept the app up and would not respond to pressure by many groups to follow suit.

“It is still unfathomable why Google stubbornly defended the indefensible for months, when the hateful and destructive content in this app should have been self-evident,” Besen said. “We hope this sends a powerful message that ‘pray away the gay’ products are unacceptable and have no place in a decent and civilized society.”

The success of “ex-gay” or often-called reparative therapy has not been proven and is considered unnecessary, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

“APA opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy, that is based on the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or is based on the a prior assumption that the patient should change his or her homosexual orientation,” according to a 1998 statement by the association.

Besen added that his organization has discovered and exposed that many who have gone through the ‘therapy’ remain gay despite claims otherwise.

The website of Living Hope Ministries, which was responsible for the app, includes things such as videos of young people telling their stories of what caused their same-sex attraction despite being raised with a church and links to “support groups for men, women, families and friends impacted by same-sex attraction.” The site also posted a letter from a church member upset about Apple’s decision to remove the app while criticizing Truth Wins Out.

Find HRC’s 2019 Corporate Equality Index and the criteria it measured at https://assets2.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/CEI-2019-FullReport.pdf?_ga=2.132635022.1218213757.1553878088-1377744635.1553878088.


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