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Hearing held on conversion therapy

A public hearing was held Thursday morning regarding a potential rule change to the controversial practice of conversion therapy. (PHOTO: John Wojcik, KSL Newsradio)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing (DOPL) wants to hear from you on the controversial topic of conversion therapy.

The state body, which is an extension of the Department of Commerce, has been directed by Governor Herbert to start drafting rules regulating the practice.

Thursday morning, a public hearing was held at the Department of Commerce building. People from both sides were there voicing their opinion.

What would change

The current proposal would essentially ban conversion therapy for Utah minors.  It could also discipline psychologists who attempt to change a child’s sexual orientation.

Administrative Law Judge Bruce Dibb presided over the hearing. He laid out some of the “safe harbors” contained in the proposed amendment.

He says acts by professionals to reduce a client’s internalized stigma, facilitate active coping and address unsafe sexual practices would all be permitted.

Many different opinions

Some health professionals came out in support of the proposed rule change.

“It [conversion therapy] presents [a] significant risk of emotional harm to patients. It perpetuates discriminatory stereotypes,” explains Dr. Mark Foote, medical director for behavioral health at Intermountain Health Care.

Others in the behavioral field remain unsatisfied with the rules’ specific language.

“I am for people choosing for themselves their own treatment goals in a realistic way,” says Jeff Robinson. He’s a marriage and family therapist based in Provo.

Personal stories

Some people at the hearing used their personal experience to highlight a point. Stephen Graham said his son underwent similar therapy about twenty years ago. He now has a wife and children.

“The sexual activist movement doesn’t want anybody to find out how they got into homosexuality or how they can get out, which they can,” says Graham with Standard of “It does work.”

Perhaps the most notable speaker was McKrae Game. Game has gained notoriety as a former conversion therapist who has since come out as gay.

He went through conversion therapy as a youth, but says deep-down he always knew that he was homosexual.

“What I did experience was enough to affect me to have multiple nervous breakdowns,” explains Game.

Public comment still needed

The Utah Division of Occupational & Professional Licensing continues to invite public comment during this process.

Representatives with DOPL say they’ve received around 1300 written comments on the issue and a majority of those are in favor of the rule change.

The earliest the amendment could come into effect is October 22.