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John Perry, KSL TV

Church says Utah rule effectively banning conversion therapy for minors should be 'appropriately amended'

By Lauren Bennett, KSL.com | Updated - Oct 16th, 2019 @ 5:40pm | Posted - Oct 15th, 2019 @ 7:36pm



SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Tuesday it is against Utah’s proposed new rule to the state’s Psychologist Licensing Board that would effectively ban gay conversion therapy for minors.

If adopted, the new rule adds “engaging in or attempting to engage in the practice of sexual orientation change efforts or gender identity change efforts with a client who is less than 18 years old,” to the board's definition of unprofessional conduct.

The church “denounces any abusive professional practice or treatment,” the statement read. Additionally, it stated that the church hopes those who experience “same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria find compassion and understanding from family members, church leaders and members, and professional counselors."

The church’s Family Services filed comments against the new rule, according to the release. The Utah Department of Commerce’s public comment period for the rule ended Tuesday.

The church is concerned the new rule is “ambiguous in key areas and overreaches in others,” the statement read.

“For example, it fails to protect individual religious beliefs and does not account for important realities of gender identity in the development of children,” the news release stated.

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If the Utah Department of Commerce accepts the rule change with no changes made, the earliest effective date would be Oct. 22, according to the department.

As of September, the department received more than 1,300 written comments, with 85% in support of the ban.

The church opposes the rule in its "current form" and in the release, officials asked that it be “appropriately amended to address the concerns raised in Family Services’ comments, or that Utah’s lawmakers provide statutory guidance on this important issue."

The proposed change follows legislation that failed to pass during the state's 2019 session that would have banned the use of conversion therapy on minors in Utah, even though LGBTQ advocates and the governor had reached a consensus and the church did not oppose the legislation.

Gov. Gary Herbert then told the Utah Department of Commerce and the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing to draft a rule.

The leadership of the Utah House Democratic Caucus released a statement Wednesday in response to the church’s opposition to the proposed rule.

“Conversion therapy is widely condemned by mental health professionals across the nation,” the statement read. “For any person under age 18, conversion therapy or any other practice that claims to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression should be prohibited in our state.”

“The state is correct to pursue policies that ensure safety and protection of children from harmful practices,” the statement continued.

Also Wednesday, Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, issued a statement on the church’s opposition, calling it “hypocritical.”

“It’s disappointing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints refuses to highlight the tremendous harm that conversion therapy has done and continues to inflict on countless numbers of people,” Romero’s statement read. “It’s hypocritical to preach compassion while condoning this hateful and failed practice. This issue is not about upholding the rights of religious beliefs. It’s about protecting youth from practices known to inflict harm.”

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