This week, Utah became the next state to ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ children. The state is also the most conservative one to do so thus far. They join 18 other states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and several cities in banning the practice.
Republican Gov. Gary Herbert first proposed the ban to the Utah legislature last November. Earlier in the year, Republican State Rep. Craig Hall, also a Republican, proposed a similar bill that later stalled in the legislature.
According to CNN, Herbert directed Utah’s Psychologist Licensing Board to draft the rules that would regulate the practice of conversion therapy within the state. He wrote to the board, explaining how he wanted experts to weigh in; he was “particularly troubled about interventions using physical distress and the lack of understanding many parents have concerning so-called ‘conversion therapy.”
In a statement posted to his official Facebook, Herbert explained how much he learned during this entire process.
“The stories of youth who have endured these so-called therapies are heart rending, and I’m grateful that we have found a way forward that will ban conversion therapy forever in our state.”
What Is Conversion Therapy?
Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, involves any sort of dangerous and discredited practice aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. A study from the UCLA Williams Institute shows more than 700,000 LGBTQ+ individuals have been subject to conversion therapy. They also estimate that 80,000 more LGBTQ+ youth may experience it within the coming years.
Conversion therapists use harmful stimuli to make victims associate their identity with said stimuli. The Human Rights Campaign states that the conversion therapy can potentially lead to anxiety, depression, drug use, homelessness or suicide.
The practice stems from the belief that any LGBTQ+ identity is an illness that should be cured. But in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association determined homosexuality was not a mental illness and has opposed the practice since 1998. It amplifies the stigma and shame LGBTQ+ youth may face from family and peers because of how they identify.
A New Road
With the ban going into effect this week, many applauded Herbert and the state of Utah for their protection of LGBTQ+ youth.
Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, expressed his gratitude to Herbert and the Psychologist Licensing Board for their work in protecting the youth of the LGBTQ+ community.
“We have no doubt that the adoption of this rule will send a live-saving message to LGBTQ+ youth across our state,” Williams said.
The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ youth, praised them as well. Casey Pick, senior fellow for advocacy and government affairs at TTP, said, “This is historic progress and further proof that protecting youth from this danger transcends regional or political divides.”