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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday that he backs a legislative push to ban some types of gay conversion therapy that he called "barbaric" but added that defining what constitutes conversion therapy is vital.
"How we define conversion probably is the key issue there, but some of the things being done, particularly to young people, seems to be barbaric and ought to be eliminated," he said during his monthly televised news conference at KUED-TV. "So, I have no problem . . .with some of the conversion methods being banned."
The Republican governor didn't elaborate on how he would define conversion therapy or what forms are 'barbaric.'
The proposal, which would ban gay conversion therapy for minors, is set to be considered by lawmakers on Friday. The plan would prohibit any treatment aimed at changing sexual orientation or gender identity, which has ranged from talk therapy to practices like electric shock. Therapists who practice it could lose their license.
The proposal, as currently written, defines gay conversion therapy as any practice or treatment, including mental health therapy, which tries to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.
It states that the definition does not include therapy discussing a person's moral or religious beliefs, or discussions pertaining to premarital sex so long as the conversation is neutral to sexual orientation.
The proposal comes during a national campaign to ban the practice, which is now outlawed in 15 states and the District of Columbia. The Mormon church has said it won't oppose the legislation, which is being touted by Republican sponsors as an important way to support LGBT youth amid an alarming spike in youth suicide.
Herbert also weighed in on two other hot button legislation being considered by lawmakers in a session that will wrap up on March 14:
Herbert called it appropriate to debate whether the state's hate crimes law should be strengthened but stopped short of backing a proposal that would allow longer jail sentences for people convicted of targeting someone because of their sexual orientation, race, religion or other factors.
Utah's current hate-crime law doesn't protect specific groups and prosecutors have said it's essentially unusable.
Herbert said his office is working with the sponsors to get the legislation "right" but will have to analyze a final version to determine if he'll sign it. The proposal is expected to be debated on the Senate floor Monday.
He said there's a precedent for enhanced penalties for certain crimes, such as killing police officers.
"I'm not opposed to it," Herbert said. "I understand the concept and actually I'm ok with that."
BEER IN GROCERY STORES
Herbert said he understands the motivation behind the push to raise low alcohol limits for beer sold at grocery and convenience stores so the state can get in line with most production-line brews sold around the country. He predicted it would pass this year or next year to reflect the market and ensure consumers have access to popular beers.
As other states like Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas shed similar limitations large brewers have begun to stop making lower-alcohol products.
Utah currently sells higher alcohol beers only in state-run liquor stores.
"I have not had anybody ever come to me over the last number of years and say, 'You know, I wish my beer had more alcohol content in it,'" Herbert said. "In fact, we have light beers out there that have become very popular because they have less alcohol content."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which Herbert is a member, opposes the measure, saying the increase is too high. Most lawmakers are members of the faith that teaches abstinence from alcohol. Many local microbreweries also oppose the change.
The proposal would increase the alcohol limit from 3.2 percent to 4.8 percent by weight, which would allow most standard beers to be sold in the state. The state Senate overwhelmingly passed the measure on Tuesday, though it's expected to face more opposition at the state House of Representatives.
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