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Conversion therapy bill leaves committee with narrower definition of what would be illegal


Utah lawmakers in the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday advanced a bill said to ban conversion therapy for minors by an 8-4 margin, over criticism from some activists that it lacked muscle. (Photo: KUTV)
Utah lawmakers in the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday advanced a bill said to ban conversion therapy for minors by an 8-4 margin, over criticism from some activists that it lacked muscle. (Photo: KUTV)
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Utah lawmakers in the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday advanced a bill said to ban conversion therapy for minors by an 8-4 margin, over criticism from some activists that it lacked muscle.

"At this point, this is a conversion therapy bill in name only," said Troy Williams, who leads Equality Utah. "It doesn't prohibit conversion therapy, it now authorizes it."

As is often the case, members of the committee voted on several different "substitute bills" modifying the language of the original bill sponsored by West Valley City Republican Craig Hall.

Members finally settled on the fourth substitute, proposed by Syracuse Republican Karianne Lisonbee, which narrows the definition of what would be illegal.

The bill's language says therapists in Utah could not offer to minors therapies they claim will "result in a complete and permanent reversal in the patient or client's sexual orientation."

Therapists also would not be permitted to assert that such a change is necessary.

She said the changes were the result of testimony by a group of therapists who visited the committee Tuesday morning.

"We kept hearing from therapists and from attorneys in the state saying, 'We're very concerned about this because the language is so broad we're not sure what you're trying to prohibit,'" she said.

Williams thinks they got bad advice.

"So they can do anything else they want to do to sort of encourage someone to overcome or reduce or minimize their same-sex attraction," he said. "Representative Lisonbee has given her ear to a fringe minority of quack therapists."

2News was unable to reach any of the therapists who testified Tuesday for comment. Lisonbee defended the critics of the first draft of the bill.

"No, these are real therapists in Utah reading and looking into the issue, have similar concerns, do not want to practice, do not practice and don't want others to practice conversion therapy," she said.

While the American Medical Association has supported other conversion therapy bans across the country, the Utah Medical Association has not spoken publicly on this specific bill.

CEO Michelle McOmber said Tuesday evening the organization was generally supportive of the first draft of the bill, but wanted to offer input on the exact wording before it was passed. They'd not fully vetted the substitute bill Tuesday night, so McOmber didn't wish to comment on it specifically.

The bill is now on the House calendar, awaiting a third reading.

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