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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday he believes state licensing officials should continue to tweak a proposed rule banning conversion therapy and wait to see what provisions are in the final product before judgment is rendered.
“There might be some clarifying language needed so people are not jumping to unwarranted conclusions,” Herbert said Thursday during his monthly KUED Ch. 7 media exchange with reporters.
“I do not want to presuppose all the outcomes,” he said. “We will see what the end result will be.”
Herbert’s comments came a day after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reaffirmed its opposition to conversion therapy, stressing that its therapists don’t practice it, but reiterating its opposition to the draft rule in its current form.
The church said it will continue to oppose the rule unless it protects therapists who are parents, grandparents, or religious leaders from losing their license if they give spiritual, religiously-based counsel.
Although those protections were in a failed House bill last session, they have not been included in the rule as drafted.
Herbert said there are questions concerning the rule’s “broad” nature and if it will ‘“impact on parental rights inappropriately, does it impact on religious beliefs inappropriately. Those are issues that I think are legitimate questions that I believe can be worked out.”
The governor also stressed it is appropriate for everyone to continue to provide input.
“I think it is very appropriate for any faith-based organization, church leaders, any citizen out there, anybody who has concerns to weigh in,” he said.
In June, Herbert directed the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing — which has oversight of licensed therapists — to draft a rule on conversion therapy in light of the failed legislative attempt to address conversion therapy, which attempts to change how one identifies their gender or sexual orientation.
The licensing division has received more than 2,500 comments and could adopt the rule within a few days or take up to 120 days.
Herbert said if the rule in unsatisfactory to the Utah Legislature, it is within its prerogative to ”trump” the rule.
Although the rule does not technically have to come before the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Committee, Sen. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, said the committee is already under pressure to take it up for review.
Anderegg, who is a co-chairman of the committee, said he’s reached out to the licensing division for that reason.
“I cautioned them not to get out in front of the Legislature on this,” he said, adding that he is aware of lawmakers who want to address conversion therapy in the coming session.
“This is an issue that is politically charged. There are people on both sides who feel very passionately about this. It is my personal opinion that it is inappropriate for the governor to get out in front of the Legislature on this.”
Anderegg added that usually when the executive branch takes action before the legislature can, there is “compelling immediacy” to act.
People are calling him pressuring him to repeal the rule, he said, emphasizing it has been unclear to him why there is such immediacy by the executive branch to address conversion therapy so quickly.