Google has finally removed a gay conversion therapy app from its online store following increasing criticism from politicians and other LGBTQ rights leaders, Gizmodo reports.
“After consulting with outside advocacy groups, reviewing our policies, and making sure we had a thorough understanding of the app and its relation to conversion therapy, we’ve decided to remove it from the Play Store, consistent with other app stores,” says a Google representative in a statement.
Google sluggishly follows the lead of other tech giants like Apple and Amazon, which were quick to drop the app in December, shortly after the national LGBTQ rights organization Truth Wins Out launched an online petition demanding its removal.
Google met months of pressure and questioning from the LGBTQ community with silence, hosting the app for Living Hope Ministries, a non-profit Christian group based in Arlington, Texas. The free app reportedly promotes a “more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ” as a result of eliminating one’s homosexuality with ex-gay podcasts, articles, and devotionals.
— Wayne Besen (@WayneBesen) March 29, 2019
Living Hope Ministries maintains that it helps people “seeking sexual and relational wholeness through a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.” Many LGBTQ groups, however, have accused the group of practicing “ex-gay” reparative therapy, faith-based counseling aimed at ridding someone of homosexuality.
“We are delighted that Google finally backed down and deleted a dangerous app that targeted LGBTQ youth with toxic messages of guilt and shame,” says Truth Wins Out executive director Wayne Besen in a statement. “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. 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.”
Besen also noted the many elected public officials who urged Google to dump the app, including New York State Sen. Brad Hoylman, Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin, and Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Sims.
The announcement comes on the heels of Google losing its pro-LGBTQ endorsement from HRC. After recently earning a perfect score on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI), which measures LGBTQ inclusion in the workplace, Google had its rating withheld until the app was deleted.
“We applaud Google for making the right decision to pull this app from their online store,” says HRC President Chad Griffin. “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 LGBT youth.”
A Change.org petition calling on Google to delete the app confirmed victory with 142,199 supporters.
“This is what people power looks like, when 140,000 people can convince one of the largest companies in the world to take a bold stand against the dangers of ex-gay therapy,” says Michael Jones, Change.org managing director of campaigns. “This was the perfect storm of online pressure and institutional activism from the LGBTQ movement, and tonight supporters can claim a big win in convincing tech companies to stand up for equality.”
So far 15 states, as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, have legally banned conversion therapy for minors on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.