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Gary Herbert proposes law to ban conversion therapy in Utah

By Darryl Coote
Gary Herbert proposes law to ban conversion therapy in Utah
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has proposed a new law to ban conversion therapy in the state. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 27 (UPI) -- Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has hashed out an agreement on a new law to ban conversion therapy for minors.

The Republican governor said Tuesday night that he has directed the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing under the state's commerce department to file the law, which was the product of an "exhaustive" process.

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"The stories of youth who have endured these so-called therapies are heart-rendering, and I'm grateful that we have found a way forward that will ban conversion therapy forever in our state," he said.

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The law's proposal follows a similar bill that was supported by both lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy groups and the Church of Latter-Day Saints but died in the state's legislature following revisions to it by a House committee that prevented even its sponsor, Rep. Craig Hall, from supporting it.

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Protests by LGBT rights activists then caused Herbert to apologize in March and vow to continue working on getting a bill banning conversion therapy passed.

According to the governor's press release, the new agreement has the support of public leaders, organizations and policy groups "who are united in supporting this critical effort to end the harmful practice of conversion therapy on minors."

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"On this Thanksgiving week, I'm grateful that this new rule will protect Utah's LGBTQ+ children and minors by banning conversion therapy," said Stephenie Larsen, CEO of Encircle, a Utah LGBT family and youth resource center. "We fully support its adoption and we believe this is the best way forward."

The rule will be open for a 30-day comment period starting Dec. 15 and could be in effect as early as Jan. 22.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski thanked the activists who helped force politicians to make the law a reality.

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"Conversion therapy is immoral and dangerous and I am glad Utah has caught up with many states to ban this practice," she said via Twitter. "Throughout this conversation the only value that should have mattered was the safety of our young people."

Conversion therapy is a controversial practice to attempt to change's one's sexual orientation or gender identity and has come under increasing criticism from LGBT advocacy groups and doctors to ban its use on minors.

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Last week, the American Medical Association said it supports state and federal bans on conversion therapy.

"It is clear to the AMA that the conversion therapy needs to end in the United States given the risk of deliberate harm to LGBTQ people," AMA Board Member William E. Kobler said. "Conversion therapy has no foundation as scientifically valid medical care and lacks credible evidence to support its efficacy or safety."

According to Human Rights Watch, 18 states have either laws or regulations concerning conversion therapy for minors.

"I am grateful we have developed language that both prohibits conversion therapy and also protects the legitimate interests of healthcare professionals, patients and families," Hall said. "I urge adoption of the proposed rule sop we can end conversion therapy once and for all in this state."

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