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Utah becomes 19th state to ban LGBTQ conversion therapy for children and teens

Conversion therapy: God only knows
Conversion therapy: God only knows 11:49

In November, Utah Governor Gary Herbert proposed a new rule to ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ minors in the state. The ban went into effect Tuesday night, making Utah the 19th — and most conservative — state to ban the discredited practice

The passing of the ban was reliant on support of the influential Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which opposes same-sex relationships but preaches kindness towards members of the LGBTQ community. The Mormon Church gave its support only after the ban was amended to include certain exceptions for clergy who offer religious counsel, though the church stressed that it opposes conversion therapy.

The new rule bans therapists in Utah from putting LGBTQ minors into conversion therapy, which purports to help a person change their sexual orientation or gender identity. The American Psychological Association (APA) said the practice is not based in science and has negative impacts on mental health. 

"We all knew and we expected an uphill battle to get this bill passed and prohibit conversion therapy throughout the state, but one thing I did not anticipate was how much of a privilege it would be to sponsor this legislation," state Representative Craig Hall, a Republican who originally sponsored the proposal, said at an Equality Utah press conference Wednesday morning. "I have been moved to tears several times." 

"It simply will save lives," Hall said.  

It's been over 45 years since the APA concluded that homosexuality is not an illness that can be "cured," but an estimated 700,000 adults in the U.S. have received some kind of conversion therapy.

Dr. Nan Klein, the Utah Psychological Association's director of professional affairs, called the ban a "significant milestone in protecting Utah youth." 

"We reject the label of 'therapy' attached to conversion practices," Klein said during the Equality Utah press conference. "Consumers of psychotherapy, particularly youth, deserve safe and effective treatment. Sexual orientation change efforts and gender identity change efforts are neither." 

"Every reputable science-based organization in the country recognizes that conversion therapy is a dangerous fraud," said Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, the largest LGBTQ advocacy group in the state. "It exacerbates depression, anxiety and suicide ideation. We are grateful to Governor Herbert and the Board of Psychologists for acting swiftly on behalf of LGBTQ youth."

New Jersey, California, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New Mexico, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Nevada, Washington, Hawaii, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, Colorado and Maine have all banned conversion practices for minors. 

"Although Utah is a predominately conservative state, protecting children from conversion therapy is not a partisan project. It's about preventing youth suicide — a goal that is widely shared by progressives and conservatives," said University of Utah law professor Clifford Rosky, who worked on drafting the approved language. "Utah adopted this measure to prevent children from dying by suicide."

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