(WB) Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced Tuesday his state would implement regulations prohibiting mental health experts from engaging in “ex-gay” conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth, making Utah the 19th state to prohibit the widely discredited practice.
The announcement from a Herbert, a Republican, comes after a tumultuous debate over conversion therapy in the heavily Mormon state, where family rejection of LGBTQ youth is known to contribute to Utah’s homeless population.
“I have learned much through this process,” Herbert said. “The stories of youth who have endured these so-called therapies are heart rendering, and I’m grateful that we have found a way that will ban conversion therapy forever in our state. I’m grateful to the many stakeholders who came to the table in good faith, with never-ending patience.”
After legislation seeking to prohibit conversion therapy failed in the state legislature, Herbert in June announced the Utah Division of Occupational & Professional Licensing would seek to establish rules to regulate conversion therapy. At the time, the results of that undertaking weren’t known.
Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, praised Herbert in a statement for ending that process with regulations to prohibit conversion therapy.
“Utah is once again leading the way in protecting LGBTQ youth and their families,” Minter said. “We salute Governor Herbert for taking action on this important issue and for this historic accomplishment.”
Therapy aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or transgender status is considered ineffectual at best and harmful at worst. Major medical and psychological institutions — including the American Psychological Association, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics — widely reject the practice.
Although the Mormon Church last month issued a statement urging Utah not to ban conversion therapy, the Church of Latter-day Saints signaled in a statement it supports the agreement.
“We are opposed to conversion therapy and our therapists do not practice it,” said LDS spokesperson Marty Stephens. “However, we are grateful for the clarifications the new rule provides, and we support its adoption.”
According to the Herbert’s office, the Division of Occupational & Professional Licensing is working to file the rule, which will be published on Dec. 15. A 30-day public comment period will follow that will end on Jan. 14, 2020. The new rule could be effective as soon as Jan. 22, 2020.
The regulation is expected to have the same language as H.B. 399, legislation introduced by Rep. Craig Hall that failed in the state legislature, and will apply to all licensed therapists in Utah. (However, that won’t apply to practitioners of conversion therapy who aren’t therapists, such as clergy, and for LGBTQ adults seeking to participate in the practice with a licensed therapists.)
“I am grateful we have developed language that both prohibits conversion therapy and also protects the legitimate interests of health care professionals, patients and families,” Hall said in statement.
Conversion therapy for youth is banned in D.C. and 18 states: Connecticut, California, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Washington State, Maryland, Hawaii and New Hampshire. (Former Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed an executive order against conversion therapy after the legislature failed to pass legislation against it.)
Mathew Shurka, a conversion therapy survivor and “Born Perfect” strategist for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, commended the Utah agreement in a statement.
“It is vital that our leaders support LGBTQ youth,” Shurka said. “We are grateful to Gov. Herbert for his leadership and for making sure all youth know they are born perfect. It is lifesaving.”