Governor concedes Latter-day Saint worries on ‘conversion therapy’ ban

Local (Utah/State News)

FILE – In this March 14, 2019, file photo, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert speaks during an interview on the final day of the legislative session at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City. (AP)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday that concerns from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about a perceived lack of safeguards for religious beliefs in a proposed ban on so-called conversion therapy raise legitimate questions, but he thinks they can be resolved.

The Republican governor said at his monthly news conference on KUED-TV that he’s hopeful a ban will be in place soon. It would prohibit the discredited practice of using therapy to try to change a LGBTQ person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Herbert in June called on regulators to craft a rule after a legislative proposal failed. The governor, who like nearly two-thirds of the state’s residents is a member of the faith, said he thinks there’s nearly unanimous agreement in Utah that conversion therapy should be prohibited.

The rule would ban Utah psychologists from subjecting LGBTQ minors to the practice that the American Psychological Association says is not based in science and is harmful to mental health.

“The only question seems to be: Is it written in such a way that is too broad? Will it impact on parental rights inappropriately? Does it impact on religious beliefs inappropriately?” Herbert said. “Those are issues that I think are legitimate questions that I believe can be worked out.”

Herbert’s comments come a week after the faith widely known as the Mormon church announced its opposition to the ban, saying the rule failed to safeguard religious beliefs and doesn’t account for “important realities of gender identity in the development of children.”

Decades ago, the church taught that homosexuality could be “cured.” Leaders have since said it’s not a sin, but the church remains opposed to same-sex marriage and intimacy.

Church government affairs director Marty Stephens said Wednesday that the faith denounces conversion therapy and wants a ban. But he said the rule needs exemptions for religious leaders and parents and grandparents who are therapists so they can provide spiritual counseling to parishioners or their families.

The legislation had those exemptions, which is why the church did not oppose it, he said.

Stephens said the faith doesn’t ascribe to “pray the gay away” thinking but that prayer and religious teachings can be helpful to people trying to navigate life’s challenges.

The church said in a letter to regulators that it would support a “carefully tailored” rule to ban “abusive” practices but contended the proposal defines sexual orientation and efforts to change sexual orientation so broadly that it “would imperil legitimate and helpful therapies to the detriment of minor clients.”

For instance, the church claims the rule wouldn’t allow therapists to discuss strategies for avoiding same-sex intimacy when young people seek help to adhere to the faith’s teachings.

Cliff Rosky, an advisory council member for the LGBTQ rights group Equality Utah who helped draft the original legislation, said the church’s concerns about the rule not protecting clergy, parents and grandparents may not be necessary because they have protections in state law.

He said none of the 18 states with conversion therapy bans explicitly exempt conversations between a therapist and their child because it only applies when they are acting in a professional capacity.

“You don’t need a license to talk to your child or grandchild, so you can’t lose a license for doing that,” Rosky said.

Equality Utah has reached out to church leaders to discuss their concerns, he said.

During a public hearing about the rule in September, a parade of LGBTQ people said undergoing the therapy led to shame, depression and for some, suicide attempts.

Opponents argued that the rule would prevent parents from getting help for their children with “unwanted” gay feelings or even from talking about sexuality.

A staff member with Department of Commerce, Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing, which is crafting the rule, said at the hearing that about 85% of the 1,300 comments submitted at that time supported the ban. The department this week refused to release a final breakdown in the nearly 2,500 public comments that came in about the rule.


WHAT OTHERS ARE CLICKING ON:

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Latest News Videos

Utah's top 10 most stolen vehicles

Thumbnail for the video titled "Utah's top 10 most stolen vehicles"

Community rocked after southeast Fresno shooting kills 4, injures 6 others

Thumbnail for the video titled "Community rocked after southeast Fresno shooting kills 4, injures 6 others"

Fresno Police gives update on mass shooting in Fresno

Thumbnail for the video titled "Fresno Police gives update on mass shooting in Fresno"

Rep. Jim Costa speaks on Fresno shooting

Thumbnail for the video titled "Rep. Jim Costa speaks on Fresno shooting"

Mexican shooting victims ready to file suit

Thumbnail for the video titled "Mexican shooting victims ready to file suit"

Idina Menzel: Elsa 'has been the greatest gift'

Thumbnail for the video titled "Idina Menzel: Elsa 'has been the greatest gift'"
More Video News
Inside Utah Politics Logo

Glen Mills

Chief Political Correspondent

For this Beetdigger and Ute it’s an honor to be doing what he loves in his home state! Glen is an award-winning journalist, who joined the ABC4 News team in June 2013. You can catch him anchoring ABC4 News at 5 and 6, Monday through Friday. He also serves as our Senior Political Correspondent, keeping you up to date on issues that impact your life at the city, state and national level. His political reports run throughout the week, and he hosts Inside Utah Politics, Sunday mornings at 8. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Before returning home to Utah, he spent 11 1/2 years developing his journalism skills in other states. He held various on-air and management positions at KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho, WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin and KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado during that time. Read More...

Don't Miss

Trending Stories