SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The amended version of a bill banning conversion therapy for minors passed the Utah House unanimously on Thursday, Feb. 9, and will be advancing to the Senate for consideration.
House Bill 228 initially drew criticism from LGBTQ+ groups and advocates because it still allowed talk therapy. The original bill contained language that suggested verbal or written communication does not fall within the definition of conversion therapy.
“The only form of conversion therapy that is still prevalent in the United States today is conversion talk therapy — which has been discredited and denounced by every major mental health and medical organization in the country,” said Equality Utah, the largest LGBTQ+ rights group in the state.
Since then, members of Equality Utah had worked with bill sponsor Rep. Mike Petersen (R-North Logan) to strike the controversial language from the bill.
“At the outset, Equality Utah would like to thank the sponsors and involved lawmakers, Rep. [Mike] Petersen, Rep. [Brady] Brammer, Senator [Curtis] Bramble, and others, for being open to thoughtful conversation on this challenging topic,” said Equality Utah in a statement. “We’ve had important dialogue and have shared our concerns openly, and for that we are grateful.”
With the newly adopted version of the bill, verbal and written communication would fall under the definition of conversion therapy. The new bill also specifies that healthcare professionals cannot provide conversion therapy to a minor client and provides a severability clause.
“I am happy to sponsor this important legislation which provides clarity for professionals while continuing to protect Utah’s LGBTQ+ youth,” said Petersen. “As a former counselor, the current [Utah Division of Professional Licensing (DOPL)] rule has been particularly concerning to me. I have spoken with former colleagues who stopped treating minors because of the ambiguity in the DOPL rule and fear of reprisal if they were to say something non-affirming to their minor patients.”