Utah announces ban on conversion therapy after religious group refuses

Utah has proposed a rule banning the controversial practice on minors.

Utah is set to ban the controversial practice of conversion therapy on minors this week, ending a long-running battle between local LGBTQ activists and religious groups on opposing sides.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert made the announcement Tuesday night, saying LGBTQ rights groups and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have agreed to a proposal rule to ban the discredited practice, which is based on the belief that being LGBTQ is abnormal. or unnatural.

“I have learned a lot through this process. The stories of young people who have endured these so-called therapies are heartbreaking, and I am grateful that we have found a way forward that will ban conversion therapy in our state forever.” , Herbert said. in a report. “I am grateful to the many stakeholders who have come to the table in good faith, with endless patience. I am also grateful to the dedicated members of the DOPL Board of Directors [Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing] for their work in bringing us together to develop this rule.”

The rule, which could go into effect as early as Jan. 22, is modeled after a bill that failed to pass the Utah state legislature earlier this year. LGBTQ rights groups and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had clashed over the language of previous versions of the rule.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has previously expressed concerns about potential attacks on religious freedom, but said the new rule brings more clarity.

“We are opposed to conversion therapy and our therapist does not practice it,” Marty Stephens, director of the church’s government affairs division, said in a statement. “However, we are grateful for the clarifications provided by the new rule and we support its adoption.”

He said church leaders are grateful to the governor for “finding a good solution that will work for everyone involved.”

The rule will be released Dec. 15 and state residents will be allowed to comment on the proposal until Jan. 14, according to the governor’s office. Utah will become the 19th state to ban the practice for minors.

The news came just days after the American Medical Association, the nation’s largest medical association, announced its support for a federal ban on conversion therapy, which attempts to convert a person’s gender identity. heterosexual or to make a transgender person identify with the gender they were. assigned at birth.

Conversion therapy techniques can range from counseling to conversion techniques such as electroshock, chemical treatments, or deprivation treatments.

Research shows that nearly 700,000 LGBT adults between the ages of 18 and 59 have admitted to undergoing conversion therapy, of which around 350,000 were subjected to the practice as children, according to a study published in June 2019 by the Williams Institute. from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Two-thirds of LGBTQ youth surveyed by The Trevor Project, which provides LGBTQ youth support as well as resources for crisis and suicide prevention, said someone had tried to convince them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the nonprofit group. 2019 National LGBTQ Mental Health Survey.

According to the survey, young people who had undergone conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as those who had not.

LGBTQ advocacy groups, including Equality Utah, applauded Herbert for protecting young people from “the dangerous and discredited practice of ‘curing’ LGBTQ clients.”

“We are deeply grateful to the Herbert administration for the thoughtful and meticulous way in which they have worked to protect LGBTQ youth,” Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, said in a statement. “This summer, Governor Herbert said science would trump politics, and he delivered on his word. Today, Utah is a safer state for our young people to live in and thrive in.”