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Conversion therapy bill hits the Hill

Today on Utah’s Capitol Hill, the bill, titled “Prohibition of the Practice of Conversion Therapy Upon Minors,” will be unveiled by Equality Utah, Rep. Craig Hall, and Sen. Dan McCay at a press conference at noon in the Hall of Governors.

Conversion therapy is the practice of attempting to change or “fix” a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Conversion therapy has been associated with high risks of depression and suicide among minors, and it has been disavowed by all of the nation’s major medical and mental health organizations. Although the practice has been banned in 15 other states, it remains legal in Utah, where suicide is already the leading cause of death among youth.

“For decades, LGBTQ Utahns have been subjected to the harmful and fraudulent efforts of conversion therapy, and it’s sadly still happening,” said EU Executive Director Troy Williams. “We still meet young people who are being told they can change their sexual orientation or gender identity, and the impacts are devastating. We are grateful to Rep. Hall and Sen. McCay for sponsoring this bill to protect our youth.”

Craig Hall said, “I’m proud to sponsor legislation that protects children from the harmful and discredited practice of so-called conversion therapy. This legislation establishes regulatory standards and will have a positive impact on the mental health and well-being of LGBTQ youth.” 

Nathan Dalley, a 19-year-old survivor of conversion therapy from Lehi, Utah, described his ordeal: “In therapy I was told that I could overcome my same-sex attraction if I became more muscular and played sports with other boys. However, after a while I started to loathe myself.” He continued, “I became more depressed, and I experienced suicidal ideation stronger than I ever had before. The therapy that was supposed to be making me better was making me feel worse.”

“This is a life-saving bill,” explained Taryn Hiatt, the area director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “We know that youth who are subjected to conversion therapy experience higher rates of depression and suicide attempts. We are eager to work with Equality Utah and state leaders to pass this legislation.” 

“This bill is a huge step forward for LGBTQ children and families,” said Clifford Rosky, a law professor at the University of Utah and a member of Equality Utah’s Advisory Council. “Conversion therapy harms children and tears families apart. It’s time for Utah to join other states by protecting children from this dangerous practice.”

The Williams Institute from UCLA Law estimates that 680,000 Americans have experienced conversion therapy — 350,000 as minors. A 2018 study by Dr. Caitlin Ryan found that minors subjected to conversion therapy were two times more likely to experience depression (52 percent) and nearly three times more likely to attempt suicide (63 percent).

“This is a dangerous and discredited practice,” Rosky explained, “which is linked to high rates of depression and suicidality in minors. It has been rejected as ineffective, harmful, and unethical by all of the nation’s leading medical and mental health organizations.”

Additionally, the LDS Church announced yesterday that it will not intervene on the proposal to ban conversion therapy practices.

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