Republican Reps. Dan McCay and Craig Hall introduced a proposal on Thursday to ban gay conversion therapy for minors.
During a massive spike in Utah’s youth suicide rate, even the Mormon Church has chosen not to oppose the ban. “This is the Utah we want. This [is] the Utah we’re all going to fight for, for the rest of our time so we deliver a place to you that you are welcome,” McCay said, while admitting he is an atypical sponsor.
“Conversion therapy has been proven to be not effective, and is particularly harmful to youth,” said Republican chief sponsor Rep. Craig Hall. If it passes, Utah will become the 16th state to formally outlaw the practice. Still, despite bipartisan support, many characterize the ban as an infringement on constitutional religious freedom and a violation of the First Amendment.
Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, one of the foremost leaders in a national campaign against conversion therapy, called the proposal a “landmark decision.”
Conversion therapy has historically included ice-pick lobotomies, chemical castration with hormonal treatment, as well as “aversive” treatments, such as “the application of electric shock to the hands and/or genitals,” the application of “nausea-inducing drugs … administered simultaneously with the presentation of homoerotic stimuli,” and “reconditioning” through forced masturbation.
And though they have formerly promoted the notion of training kids to be heterosexual, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has recently “denounced the practice and said homosexuality is not a sin, though the faith remains opposed to same-sex marriage and intimacy,” according to NBC News.
Utah State Sen. Derek Kitchen, an openly gay Democrat, made his support of the potential law public in a statement, saying, “It’s telling people that they are good the way they are, they are loved, and they don’t need to be changed. It acknowledges that conversion therapy is on par with other methods of torture, and tells state regulated medical professionals that this kind of ‘treatment’ is unacceptable.”