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Utah House committee advances conversion therapy bill after deal

Posted at 6:40 PM, Feb 06, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — In a unanimous vote, a Utah House committee on Monday passed a bill advancing a state conversion therapy bill.

The vote came hours after a deal was struck on the legislation that originally sought to unwind some of Utah's ban on LGBTQ conversion therapy.

The deal revolved around a language change in House Bill 228, and it was confirmed that the legislation will preserve the ban on conversion therapy for minors. Conversion therapy is a widely discredited practice of attempting to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity.

In 2020, Utah banned LGBTQ conversion therapy in an administrative rule after efforts to pass a law through the legislature failed. It was the result of a deal at the time between the governor's office, LGBTQ rights groups and even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Last year, it was reported that lawmakers signaled they would be revisiting the ban, raising concerns among Utah's LGBTQ community members.

The state's Rep. Mike Petersen, R-Logan, announced the agreement ahead of the Monday hearing on his bill.

"I am happy to sponsor this important legislation which provides clarity for professionals while continuing to protect Utah’s LGBTQ+ youth," he said in a statement.

“As a former counselor, the current DOPL rule has been particularly concerning to me. 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. 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."

Because of changes made to the bill to preserve the original ban, Equality Utah confirmed that it would support the legislation. If it passes the entire legislature, the ban would be enshrined into law instead of through an administrative rule.

"We’ve had important dialogue and have shared our concerns openly, and for that we are grateful," Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams said in a statement. "The second substitute continues to prohibit the very dangerous practice of conversion therapy for minors, while providing greater clarification for Utah therapists, and accordingly, we support the advancement of HB228 as amended."

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Senate President J. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said he had been briefed on the agreement and was supportive of it.

Governor Spencer Cox was apparently involved in some of the discussions around the bill and supported the compromise.

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

This story was originally published by KSTU in Salt Lake City, Utah.