SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – As the 2019 legislative session drew to a close Thursday, advocates for banning conversion therapy for Utah minors were still reeling from the sudden death of House Bill 399, a measure that would have outlawed the practice.
“It’s devastating, I’m still emotionally drained from it,” said Ermiya Fanaeian, 18, who led a protest against amendments to the bill laid out by Rep. Karianne Lisonbee (R – Clearfield) last week.
The amendments would prohibit licensed therapists in Utah from performing any conversion therapy practice that causes physical discomfort, including electric shock therapy or practices that induce vomiting, but would not keep therapists from talking about changing one’s sexual orientation.
Advocates for H.B. 399 said the amendments completely negate the purpose of the bill, and that allowing licensed therapists to continue to encourage changing one’s sexual orientation leads to depression and suicide among LGBTQ youth.
“I’ve been told many times in my life that I should change. that being a trans person is wrong and that you can somehow change yourself…and so that’s a horrible thing to hear as a young person myself, I know how that feels,” said Fanaeian. She said during the interim, she plans to find more young LGBTQ voices to join the cause to end conversion therapy in Utah, which has been banned in 16 states as of Thursday.
She also hopes to gain and keep the support of legislative leadership on this issue.
Equality Utah championed the measure. Thursday that organization’s executive director Troy Williams said advocates for banning conversion therapy were taking time to let the dust settle from the loss before they would regroup and figure out how to move forward.
New legislation could be on the horizon for the 2020 legislative session, but Rep. Craig Hall (R-West Valley City) said right now there is nothing specific planned.
“This issue isn’t going away and I look forward to finding solutions for this sensitive issue,” said Hall.
If you or anyone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Other bills that have to do with or include LGBTQ rights this legislative session are: the hate crimes bill, which passed the legislature, and two vital records bills that have to do with legally changing one’s gender.
The bills having to do with legally changing genders were tabled and moved to the interim session.