Utah is soon going to be the 19th state to ban the practice of conversion therapy – a practice used to try to change people’s gender identity. According to Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, church leaders back a regulatory rule that was crafted after “legislative efforts for a ban on the therapy failed earlier this year.”
The Mormon church countered a previous version of the rule as they wanted to be assured that church leaders and therapists would be allowed to provide spiritual counseling for parishioners or families. The faith is against gay marriage and teaches that having same-sex relationships is a sin. However, they urge their members to be kind and compassionate to LGBTQ people.
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With the rule, Utah therapists would be banned 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.” LGBTQ advocates and conversion therapy survivors praised the success in getting the church’s support for the rule. They had also expressed frustration with the long battle in the state to ban conversion therapy.
Nathan Dalley, who had conversion therapy when he was 16, said “this is a change that’s been needed for so long. It’s too late, but I’m happy it is here.” Dalley tells the story of how he was told in therapy to snap a rubber band on his wrist every time he felt attracted to the same sex. Conversion therapy would also examine one’s posture, walk, gestures, and interests. According to Dalley, the experience “deepened his feelings of depression and culminated in a suicide attempt several months after the therapy.”
The religion is greatly influential in Utah. Majority of state lawmakers and nearly two-thirds of Utah’s residents are members of the faith. Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, believes that the move will save lives.