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Utah Lawmakers, Activists Reach Compromise on Conversion Therapy Ban

Utah Lawmakers, Activists Reach Compromise on Conversion Therapy Ban

Mike Petersen speaking at microphone

Activists voiced concerns that the proposed bill was too watered-down.

A bill codifying Utah’s administrative ban on conversion therapy has advanced after minor changes to the wording of the proposed law.

Utah’s House Business, Economic Development & Labor Committee on Monday voted unanimously in favor of House Bill 228, known formally as the Unprofessional Conduct Amendments, which outlaws the use of conversion therapy in the state. The discredited practice has been administratively banned in the state via occupational rules since 2020. Although the bill was meant to put that ban into law, disputes arose with activists who felt the bill was watered-down and would permit a form of conversion therapy known as “talk therapy.” The bill passed Monday incorporated changes to forbid the practice while also protecting providers.

“I am happy to sponsor this important legislation which provides clarity for professionals while continuing to protect Utah’s LGBTQ+ youth,” the bill’s chief sponsor, Republican Rep. Mike Petersen, said in a statement.

“At the outset of the Legislative session, we were concerned that Utah’s ban on conversion therapy would be in danger,” Equality Utah said in a statement. “We are happy to report that is no longer the case.”

Equality Utah thanked Petersen and his Senate sponsor, Republican Sen. Curtis Bramble, for working together to find a compromise solution. In return, Utah’s Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican who was also a part of the negotiations, thanked Equality Utah for their efforts.

“We appreciate Equality Utah and legislative sponsors working together to find common ground,” Cox said in a statement. “We’ve encouraged these discussions and support this version of the bill.”

Petersen had expressed concerns by providers about the ambiguity of the existing ban and the need to clarify definitions. He said the new bill balances concerns of both providers and the LGBTQ+ community.

“I have spoken with former colleagues who stopped treating minors because of ambiguity in the DOPL rule and fear of reprisal if they were to say something non-affirming to their minor patients,” Petersen said Monday. “I have also spoken with members of the LGBTQ+ community who are grateful for the changes in HB228 because they wish their counselors would have been more inquisitive and curious during their therapy sessions.”

A growing number of countries and states have implemented bans against conversion therapy. Groups in the U.K. and Ireland announced plans to introduce bills banning the practice. A U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last September upheld Washington State’s ban on conversion therapy for minors. Last August, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order aimed at discouraging conversion therapy in the state. And last March, the New Jersey Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a ruling that barred a religious organization from offering so-called conversion therapy.

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