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“We expected an uphill battle,” lawmaker says of conversion therapy ban

Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, speaks Wednesday about conversion therapy at the Capitol in Salt Lake City. (PHOTO: Courtesy of Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The Utah lawmaker who pushed to ban the controversial practice of “conversion therapy” is celebrating a rule change that effectively does just that in the state.

Utah became the 19th state in the country to ban the conversion therapy Wednesday, after Gov. Gary Herbert asked state regulators to step in. He directed the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing to take up the issue that fell short of passage in the 2019 legislative session. Their goal was to develop professional rules based on the best available information.

Over the course of months, the agency heard debate from individuals and groups on both sides of the issue.

Rep. Craig Hall, a Republican from West Valley City, carried the legislation. While speaking at a press conference, he reflected on the challenges the bill has faced.

“We expected an uphill battle to get this bill passed,” he said.

New Rule, Familiar Language

While this specific rule is new, it does contain some language from the previous bill that failed.

“One thing I did not anticipate is how much of a privilege it would be to sponsor this legislation,” said Hall. “I have been moved to tears several times when parents told me their accounts that begin with, ‘my daughter experienced this’ or ‘my son experienced that.'”

The professional licensing rule will stop any therapist or counselor from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a minor.

“This bill and the administrative rule both prohibit conversion therapy throughout the state for minors,” explained Hall. “[It] also protects the legitimate interests of therapists and patients and their families.”

If a state licensed therapist were to violate the rule, they could face professional sanctions.

Troy Williams, Equality Utah’s executive director, highlighted Herbert’s actions, which he feels prevented the issue from becoming over-politicized.

“He kept his word to the LGBTQ community, and we are deeply grateful to him,” Williams said.

Instead, he thanked the governor’s office for letting science prevail over politics.