Legislators and LGBTI activists in Utah introduced legislation on Thursday (21 February) to ban conversion therapy on minors.
Should the state’s legislature pass it, and the governor sign it, Utah will become the 16th state to ban the practice on LGBTI youth. It will join 15 other states and the District of Columbia.
New York was the most recent state to ban the harmful practice.
The LGBTI organization Equality Utah drafted the legislation late last year, with plans of introducing it this year. Called the Prohibition of the Practice of Conversion Therapy Upon Minors bill, it bans the pseudoscience of conversion therapy on minors.
Two Republicans, Rep. Craig Hall and Sen. Dan McCay are co-sponsors of the bill.
‘I’m proud to sponsor legislation that protects children from the harmful and discredited practice of so-called conversion therapy,’ Hall said in a statement. ‘This legislation establishes regulatory standards and will have a positive impact on the mental health and well-being of LGBTQ youth.’
Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams expressed gratitude to both lawmakers for their support.
Harms of conversion therapy
The practice of conversion therapy involves spiritual, religious, and psychotherapeutic means to try and change a person’s sexuality. Medical professionals say it doesn’t work and, in many case, can have detrimental effects, such as depression and more.
Numerous medical associations condemn the practice.
‘For decades, LGBTQ Utahns have been subjected to the harmful and fraudulent efforts of conversion therapy, and it’s sadly still happening,’ Williams said.
‘We still meet young people who are being told they can change their sexual orientation or gender identity, and the impacts are devastating.’
A recent report out of the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law estimated 20,000 LGBTI minors in the US will be subjected to conversion therapy if state officials fail to institute protections for them.
Mormon Church will support the bill
The Mormon Church, a conservative religion whose presence is largest in Utah, has no plans to block the bill.
Marty Stephens, the church’s director of government relations, and former Utah House Speaker, reinforced the church’s support in a statement.
‘We’ve repeatedly stated that the church denounces any therapy, including conversion or reparative therapy, that subjects individuals to abusive practices, not only in Utah but throughout the world,’ he said.
‘We’ve appreciated the willingness of the sponsors of this legislation to work with us to make sure that counseling that’s in alignment with the church’s standards does not come under the definition of conversion therapy.’
The counseling Stephens’ comments refer to is teaching sexual abstinence before marriage.
Recently, a Mormon ex-conversion therapist came out as gay and apologized for employing the harmful practice.
Utah’s suicide rates are the fifth highest in the nation. Equality Utah hopes the passage of this bill is a step towards combatting that statistic.