Utah Bans Discredited LGBTQ Conversion Therapy for Kids: 'This Measure Will Truly Save Lives'
Utah became the 19th U.S. state to ban conversion therapy on LGBTQ minors on Tuesday, a measure long in the making for one of the country’s more conservative states.
Gov. Gary Herbert’s office confirms to PEOPLE that the new ban has gone into effect two months after a revamped bill was proposed in order to garner the support of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“This measure will truly save lives,” Rep. Craig Hall, the ban’s original sponsor, told the Associated Press in a statement released through the LGBTQ rights group Equality Utah.
Hall’s proposed ban on the controversial counseling method that seeks to suppress one’s same-sex attractions through counseling or ministry was brought to light last year, but was tweaked by “social conservatives on Capitol Hill to the point he could not support his own legislation,” Fox affiliate KSTU reported.
The bill officially died in March, per KSTU, but was brought back last fall, only to find opposition from the Mormon Church, which believed its language did not “safeguard religious beliefs,” and did not account for “important realities of gender identity in the development of children,” the AP reported at the time.
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The church does not allow same-sex marriage, but acknowledges that “individuals do not choose to have such attractions,” and considers conversion therapy “unethical,” according to the Human Rights Campaign.
In November, Gov. Herbert announced that lawmakers and the church — of which two-thirds of the state’s population are members — had come to an agreement regarding the ban’s language, and that it then had their backing, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
“I am thrilled by the adoption of the Administrative Rule which ends conversion therapy once and for all in this State,” Rep. Hall said in his statement. “Thanks to everyone who helped develop language that both prohibits conversion therapy and also protects the legitimate interests of healthcare professionals, patients, and families.”
The new rule bans therapists in Utah from practicing conversion therapy, something that the American Psychological Association has reportedly said is not science-based and is actually harmful to mental health.
That harm was highlighted in the 2018 film Boy Erased, based on the true story of Garrard Conley, who, at 19, was subjected to conversion therapy and later said it made him suicidal.
“It was a lot of shaming. It was lots of fear,” he told PEOPLE in 2018. “You had to really express things that you’d never expressed before. And then you were told, after you expressed them, ‘This is disgusting, this is vile.’”
Conversion therapy also made headlines in September after former conversion therapy leader McKrae Game came out as gay.
“When I started truth ministry, I believed the gay community and the world was lying about homosexuality and this whole subject,” he told the Post and Courier. “I felt like it was this big ruse and there was a lot of deceit. I was trying to tell the truth.”
“Now, I think it’s the complete opposite. I believe ex-gay ministry is a lie; conversion therapy is not just a lie, it’s very harmful,” he continued. “[Especially] when it takes it to the point of, ‘You need to change and here’s a curriculum, here’s how you do it, and you haven’t changed yet, keep at it, it’ll happen.’”