Public hearing scheduled on rules of conversion therapy practices

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A public hearing on the rules of ‘conversion therapy’ practices in Utah is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Sept. 26 at the Heber Wells Building, 160 E. 300 South.

A bill introduced in the last legislative session, HB399, would have prohibited certain health care professionals from providing conversion therapy to a minor; and added a violation of the prohibition to the list of conduct that constitutes unprofessional conduct for licensing purposes.

In a section of the bill, it reads that it “is neutral with respect to sexual orientation or gender identity which provides assistance to a patient or client undergoing gender transition; provides acceptance, support, and understanding of a patient or client; facilitates a patient or client’s ability to cope, social support, and identity exploration and development; addresses unlawful, unsafe, premarital, or extramarital sexual activities in a manner that is neutral with respect to sexual orientation; or discusses with a patient or client the patient or client’s moral or religious beliefs or practices.”

The bill also specifically would have excluded “a clergy member or religious counselor who is acting substantially in a pastoral or religious capacity and not in the capacity of a health care professional; or a parent or grandparent who is a health care professional and who is acting substantially in the capacity of a parent or grandparent and not in the capacity of a health care professional.”

Utah would have been the 16th state to ban conversion therapy, but the bill fizzled after lawmakers altered the bill, which included language that LGBT advocates believed would not stop conversion therapy. It never reached to a vote on the House floor.

In June of this year, Gov. Gary Herbert said that he lacks the expertise to fully evaluate conversion therapy, but had asked state regulators to review and propose new professional and ethical rules around the controversial and widely discredited practice; hence, the upcoming public hearing.

“The governor was wise to move this out of the political realm and over to scientists,” said Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah that sponsored HB399. “Our understanding is this will have the same efficacy of law … so young people can be protected.”

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