Equality Utah leaders, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leaders and staff for Utah Gov. Gary Herbert came to an agreement in November to hash out a ban conversion therapy for LGBT minors.
In the last legislative session, a bill to end the practice was thwarted by national and local ultra-conservatives, who said the bill went too far, ignored “religious freedoms” and made it impossible for therapists to help any child grappling with sexual and gender identity issues.
Since that session, the governor directed the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing to file a new rule banning the so-called conversion therapy for minors using the bill’s language that failed on Capitol Hill.
The LDS Church, however, issued a statement saying that the proposed rules did not take religious freedoms into account, even though the rules were the same language they offered no comment on in the legislature.
This new rule prohibits any state-licensed therapist from practicing conversion therapy with minors. This means they will not be allowed to encourage a child to change their sexual orientation or gender identity in any way or give the child hope they can change themselves.
Equality Utah’s Clifford Rosky explains that attempts at converting someone’s sexuality or gender identity have serious risks.
“The two most recent studies have shown that attempting to change a child’s orientation or gender identity leads to suicide attempts, not just ideation but actual attempts in more than 60 percent of children,” Rosky told KUER Radio’s Lee Hale.
Rosky says that the church’s Quorum of the Twelve voted on the language of the original bill in the legislature and decided not to oppose the measure.
“The spokesperson of the church in February made very positive comments about being grateful that Equality Utah and the sponsor worked with the church to address its concerns,” Rosky said.
But then Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfied, and Rep. Brady Brammer, R-Pleasant Grove, ran bills to dramatically narrow the language of the bill to only include antiquated methods of conversion therapy, such as electro-shock therapy. The duo essentially hijacked the bill, Rosky said.
“They took the definition of conversion therapy from the bill, deleted it, and replaced it with something that was essentially meaningless and easy to avoid,” Rosky said.
Rosky explained that the bill came from national therapists who offer conversion therapy, even though the practice is strongly opposed by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Psychoanalytic Association, and the American Psychological Association.
As the Licensing division devised their rules, an exemption that existed in the earlier bill was removed for parents and clergy members. This, apparently, was why the church issued a statement against the proposed rules.
The wording in the rule states that a parent or clergy member “who is acting substantially in a pastoral or religious capacity and not in the capacity of a mental health therapist” is exempt.
“We are profoundly grateful to Governor Herbert and the Psychologist Licensing Board for the thoughtful and meticulous manner in which they have worked to protect LGBTQ-plus youth from conversion therapy,” said Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah. “We have no doubt the adoption of this rule will send a life-saving message to LGBTQ+ youth across our state.”
The rules were formally published on Dec. 15 in the Utah State Bulletin, which marks the start of a 30-day public comment period.