Utah banning ‘conversion therapy’ with Mormon church backing

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FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2018, file photo, the angel Moroni statue, silhouetted against the sky, sits atop the Salt Lake Temple at Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Utah is set to become the 19th state to enact a ban on the discredited practice of conversion therapy after state officials revised a proposal to win back the support of the influential Church of a Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – Utah is on its way to becoming the 19th state to ban the discredited practice of conversion therapy in January after state officials formed a proposal that has the support of the influential Church of a Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert announced Tuesday night that church leaders back a regulatory rule his office helped craft after legislative efforts for a ban on the therapy failed earlier this year.

The faith known widely as the Mormon church opposed a previous version of the rule because it wanted assurances that church leaders and members who are therapists would be allowed to provide spiritual counseling for parishioners or families — which were included in the latest conversion therapy ban plan.

The faith opposes gay marriage and teaches that intimidate same-sex relationships are a sin. The religion has stuck to that belief while urging members to be kind and compassionate to LGBTQ people.

Conversion therapy is a practice used to try to change peoples’ sexual orientation or gender identity.

The rule would ban Utah therapists from subjecting LGBTQ minors to the practice that the American Psychological Association has said is not based in science and is harmful to mental health. The Utah rule proposal is set to go to a 30-day public comment period beginning Dec. 15 and take effect as soon as Jan. 22, Herbert said.

The success in getting the church’s crucial support for the regulatory rule generated praise from LGBTQ advocates and conversion therapy survivors who had expressed frustration with the yearslong battle in Utah to ban conversion therapy. The rule uses language from a state legislative proposal that failed this year despite church leaders saying they would not oppose it.

“It means youth will be getting adequate services that will help them rather than harm them,” said Nathan Dalley, 20, who had conversion therapy when he was 16. “This is a change that’s been needed for so long. It’s too late, but I’m happy it is here.”