SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – A protest organized by LGBTQ students from the University of Utah took place at the State Capitol Monday. The activists marked their territory outside of the Utah House chambers and demanded legislators do a better job supporting their community.

The student-activists spoke out in opposition to a rewrite of a bill meant to ban licensed therapists from trying to change the sexual orientations or gender identities of minors.

The substitute version of House Bill 399 is sponsored by Representative Karianne Lisonbee.

LGBTQ activists say if Lisonbee’s substitution bill passes, it wouldn’t protect the youth from conversion therapy dangers.

“Conversion therapy is basically a torture method to strip LGBT{Q} youth of all humanity and authenticity. That is not what we want,” said Ermiya Fanaeian, the UofU student who helped organize the protest.

“The substitute would have actually protected conversion therapists in its language. It also excluded transgender Utahns completely from its language. That is something I certainly do not support. We cross the finish line together or nobody crosses at all,” Fanaeian added.

ABC4’s Brittany Johnson’s multiple requests to Rep. Lisonbee for an on-camera interview were not returned, but Greg Hartley, Chief of Staff for the Speaker of the House sent the following statement:

Being in the Legislature and serving on the Judiciary Committee has helped inform Rep. Lisonbee in a lot of different areas of public policy and its impact on citizens and stakeholders.

She believes conversation therapy is a horrific practice. The language she proposed in her substitute bill does not allow practices aimed at changing a person’s sexual identity. It also prohibits a therapist from stating that a change is necessary. Like every bill that is debated in our session, her proposed substitute is part of our process and it passed with a majority vote. 
 
Since then, she, and now her family, have suffered an onslaught of vitriol. She remains focused on the final week of this legislative session and is willing to continue to work together with stakeholders over the interim on this legislation. 

The student-activists also weighed in on the 2019 Legislative Session in its entirety, in regards to other bills introduced that would have some effect on the LGBTQ community.

“There’s been great laws that have been introduced — great bills that have been introduced — but have not been enacted and have not passed and we need to work on that,” Fanaeian said.

“There’s been some bittersweetness to it for sure. But I do feel like we’ve seen a level of collaboration across the aisle that’s been surprising but totally appreciated,” said Cody Craig, who also helped organize the protest.

Fanaeian is holding out hope that one day LGBTQ individuals and lawmakers will see eye-to-eye.

“Hope, I think is the fundamental principle of this nation. If we don’t keep hope, there’s nothing left for us. It’s always important to be hopeful because this is not the end.”