Google barred from LGBT+ equality index over 'life-threatening' app

Thursday, 28 March 2019 18:17 GMT

An illuminated Google logo is seen inside an office building in Zurich, Switzerland December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

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Human Rights Campaign suspended the tech company from its Corporate Equality Index, which ranks U.S. companies on the benefits they offer LGBT+ staff

By Rachel Savage

LONDON, March 28 (Openly) - One of the United States' top LGBT+ charities ejected Google from a gay and transgender rights ranking on Thursday for hosting an app that advises people on how to "recover" from same-sex attraction.

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) suspended the tech company from its Corporate Equality Index, which ranks U.S. companies on the benefits they offer LGBT+ staff, over the Living Hope Ministries app.

"We have been urging Google to remove this app because it is life-threatening to LGBTQ youth and also clearly violates the company's own standards," the HRC said in a statement.

"Amazon, Apple and Microsoft have taken action to remove the app from their platforms, but so far Google has refused despite our warnings about the dangers."

A spokesman for Google declined to comment.

Articles available on the Living Hope Ministries app include "Keys to Recovery from Same-Sex Attractions", which features advice such as "accept that you must make sacrifices to be free and healthy" and "commit to sexual purity".

"Many people who want freedom from homosexuality are also addicted to sex and/or masturbation," said the article, attributed to Living Hope Ministries' executive director Ricky Chelette.

The church did not respond to a request for comment.

Living Hope Ministries said in an open letter to Apple that it did not preach "pray the gay away" after the company removed the app from its App Store.

A fifth of gay, lesbian and bisexual British people who have tried to change their sexuality have attempted suicide, according to a study of the controversial practice of "conversion therapy" in Britain that was released last month.

Conversion therapy, which can include hypnosis and electric shocks, is based on the belief that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is a mental illness that can be cured.

It is used in many countries, although Malta, Ecuador and just over a dozen U.S. states have outlawed it, according to the ILGA, a network of LGBT+ rights groups. Countries including Britain, New Zealand and Australia are considering bans.

"Such practices have been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organisation for decades," HRC said in its report.

HRC has ranked American companies since 2002 based on factors such as offering benefits equally to gay and straight staff and their partners and providing full medical insurance for transgender people.

Google had previously achieved a perfect score of 100 since 2006, when it was first included in the index. Since 2017 it has donated $1.5 million to the LGBT Center of New York's Stonewall Forever project, which records gay and trans history online. (Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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