SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – LGBTQ and youth advocates are furious over a bill to ban conversion therapy in Utah.
The battle is over the definition of conversion therapy. An amended version of House Bill 399, Prohibition of the Practice of Conversion Therapy for Minors, passed the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday.
The bill’s original sponsor, Representative Craig Hall (R- West Valley), says the substitute bill creates a weak definition that therapists will be able to work around.
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.
“What happened in the Legislature was a travesty,” said Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams. “We came to the Capitol in good faith to save LGBTQ lives. The governor and the House Judiciary Committee rejected the leading scientific consensus that conversion therapy is harmful and endangers youth. The committee’s new substitute bill would have authorized conversion therapy, instead of protecting children from it.”
LGBTQ rights organization Equality Utah held a news conference Wednesday to discuss what it says is the legislature’s “effort to undermine the bill.”
“This was a life-saving bill,” said Taryn Hiatt, the area director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “We know that youth who are subjected to conversion therapy experience higher rates of depression and suicide attempts. We are incredibly disappointed by the unwillingness of lawmakers to address this public health issue in a meaningful way.”
Angered by the what they see as a weakened bill, Williams and Hiatt resigned from the Governor Gary Herbert’s Suicide Prevention Task Force.
We will not be window dressing. Today our executive director @TroyWilliamsUT resigned his seat on @GovHerbert Youth Suicide Task Force. Conversion therapy is #StillHappening in Utah. Take action: https://t.co/2H2Xk8OlAy. #utpol pic.twitter.com/KFyrv3d7rM— Equality Utah (@EqualityUtah) March 6, 2019
In his resignation letter to the governor, Williams said, “My hope was that your administration was serious about addressing issues related to LGBTQ youth suicide. I’ve come to realize that you are not.”
Herbert sent a letter to Williams and Hiatt inviting them to meet to discuss their specific concerns.
“I have felt that it is very important that our LGBTQ+ youth need better access to trusted professionals and people they can talk to about their identity and feelings. I also think it’s important to protect the rights of parents in counseling with their children in these sensitive matters,” Herbert wrote.