POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Proposed change to conversion therapy law concerns LGBTQ+ advocates

Jan 19, 2023, 10:00 AM
trans athlete bill...
Troy Williams, Equality Utah executive director, speaks in opposition bill to prevent trans girls from playing in girls sports. One year later, the bill looks very different. (Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)
(Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY– A proposed bill would change the definition of conversion therapy for doctors and practitioners in Utah. But some equality groups say it would open the door for the practice to be legal again.

A bill to to ban conversion therapy—practice used to try to change sexual orientation or gender identity—was passed during in Jan. 2020.

According to the text of House Bill 0228 (HB0228) it would: define terms, prohibit certain health care professionals from providing conversion therapy to a minor, clarify that verbal or written communication by itself does not fall within the definition of conversion therapy, and makes technical and conforming changes.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Peterson, R- North Logan said his proposed wording change to a line in the current law still equates to a ban on conversion therapy for minors.

However, that’s the part that Equality Utah’s Executive Director, Troy Williams said would legalize it and noted physical techniques are not used anymore. 

“What they do is they employ talk therapy, as we call it the ‘pray the gay away’ technique. And they give the clients a bunch of techniques and mantras and ideas that simply don’t work,” said Williams.

Williams said this legislation protects therapists that use conversion techniques and will “harm the mental health of gay and transgender Utahns.”

In a statement, Peterson said therapists are unclear on when they can treat minors due to the language of the current law. He argued that this strikes the right balance between compassion and free speech. 

Williams disagrees. 

“We have some lawmakers who still don’t believe that LGBTQ youth have a right to exist…”

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Proposed change to conversion therapy law concerns LGBTQ+ advocates