Record editorial: In gutting conversion therapy ban, lawmakers failed Utah’s most vulnerable youth
March 10, 2019
It was a disgraceful day in the Utah Legislature.
On Tuesday, a House committee, bending to quacks and zealots, gutted a bill that sought to put an end in the state to the inhumane practice of conversion therapy, which involves attempting to "cure" LGBTQ youth by changing their sexual orientation or gender identity. The legislation was bastardized so thoroughly even its sponsor, West Valley City Republican Rep. Craig Hall, voted against it.
Rather than delivering an overdue end to conversion therapy, the watered-down bill would permit therapists to talk with patients about changing their sexual orientation, essentially giving practitioners cover to continue performing their methods. It does little, as Hall and advocates for LGBTQ equality have argued, to fulfill the ostensible goal of protecting gay and transgender youth.
And that's as contemptible as anything lawmakers have done on Capitol Hill this year.
Putting aside the futility of conversion therapy — a number of medical associations have found there is no credible evidence of its effectiveness — it is unspeakably cruel. The practice has been linked to increased danger of depression and suicide, and according to the American Psychiatric Association, represents "a significant risk of harm" to patients.
Society's obligation to shield our youth from such abuse is evident — except to those clinging to outdated views about sexuality and gender identity. Clearly, if not surprisingly, that describes a fair amount of the elected officials in the Utah Legislature. The lawmakers who support the amended bill seem more concerned with preserving the right of parents and therapists to act on the absurd notion that gay and transgender people are defective than they are with protecting some of our most vulnerable people.
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It would be a mistake to think Utah's LGBTQ community didn't get the message loud and clear. The situation is especially unfortunate given the opportunity that was before legislators to set an altogether different tone.
No one is under the illusion that most members of the predominantly white male, predominantly LDS, predominantly straight Legislature grasp the experience of being gay or transgender, but passing a strong conversion therapy ban would have nonetheless communicated that it's OK for LGBTQ youth to be themselves. That there is nothing inherently wrong with them. That, while not everybody in Utah understands them, they are loved and valued the way they are. That they can count the most powerful people in the state among their allies.
Instead, lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee sided with people who believe none of those things. In doing so, they revealed plenty about both their own convictions and how far Utah still must come in respecting the humanity of our LGBTQ friends and neighbors.
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