SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – After the second day of hearings, a bill to ban conversion therapy for minors passed through a House committee.
But, it’s not the bill the original sponsor or LGBTQ advocates are backing.
The battle is over the definition of conversion therapy.
It was standing room only as people lined up to share their thoughts on House Bill 399.
Taylor Stringham went through conversion therapy as a minor. She says the impact was devastating.
“It tore apart my family and I still suffer from the effects of that therapy today,” Stringham said.
Stephen Doane has a different story.
“I was suicidal for 10 years and I haven’t been at all for the last year. It saved my marriage, and family and helped me become more confident and assertive,” Doane said.
Members of the House Judiciary Committee heard emotional testimony from those on both sides of the issue.
In the end, committee members sided with a substitute at the dismay of the original bill sponsor.
Representative Craig Hall says it creates a weak definition that therapists will be able to work around.
“With increased rates of depression, with increased rates of suicidality, we want to make sure that we protect those kids and protect them from harmful treatments,” said Hall, (R) West Valley.
Under the amended bill, conversion therapy is defined as a claim of complete and permanent reversal, or that asserts it’s necessary. It also includes any treatment that causes physical discomfort like vomiting or electric shock.
The bill would still allow for neutral exploration for sexual orientation and gender identity.
Representative Karianne Lisonbee proposed the amendment.
“The language in the underlying bill was just simply too vague, that it didn’t accurately define what we were trying to prevent and it would have a chilling effect on therapy that was self-directed from our young people who want to seek therapy,” said Lisonbee, (R) Clearfield.
Local advocates are furious about the change. Troy Williams with Equality Utah says it’s a sham.
“The majority of the House Judiciary Committee and the governor of Utah have abandoned LGBT kids, that’s it,” said Williams.
Representative Hall says there is still time to work with lawmakers and stakeholders to come to a better agreement.
The new version of the bill passed committee on a vote of 8-4.