SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – On the eve of the unveiling of a measure to end the practice of “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ individuals in Utah, the state’s predominant religion announced it would not oppose the bill.
Sponsors of the bill Rep. Craig Hall (R-West Valley City) and Sen. Dan McCay (R-Riverton) are expected to unveil the bill Wednesday with support from Equality Utah. The practice is currently banned in 14 states due to scientific research debunking the theories associated with it.
Many Utahns have undergone some sort of conversion therapy at the recommendation of their ecclesiastical leaders to rid themselves of unwanted same-sex attractions. Wednesday, the LDS Church’s Director of Government Relations Marty Stephens told ABC4 News the church would not oppose the bill to ban the practice in the state of Utah.
“We have repeatedly stated the church denounces any conversion or reparative therapy that subjects individuals to abusive practices, not only in Utah but around the world,” Stephens told ABC4 News.
“We appreciate the willingness of the sponsors to work with us to make sure that counseling that is in alignment with the church’s standards such as abstinence before marriage does not come under the definition of conversion therapy,” he said.
“The church does not oppose this legislation in its current form,” Stephens added. “We hope that those who experience same-sex attraction find compassion and understanding from family members, professional counselors, and church members.”
Equality Utah released a statement Wednesday about why they are unveiling the bill this session.
“For decades, LGBTQ Utahns have been subjected to the harmful and fraudulent efforts of conversion therapy, and it’s sadly still happening,” said Executive Director Troy Williams. “We still meet young people who are being told they can change their sexual orientation or gender identity, and the impacts are devastating. We are grateful to Rep. Hall and Sen. McCay for sponsoring this bill to protect our youth.”
In the past, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has said members who experience same-sex attraction mayn overcome it. (See this 2007 talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland). That line has evolved in recent years, with Church leaders acknowledging same-sex orientation may not be changed for individuals who experience it.
Still, the church opposes same-sex marriage. Members who experience same-sex attraction remain in good standing with the church as long as they remain celibate and do not act on their attractions.