The Republican Governor of Utah, Gary Herbert, has said he is inclined to support a bill to ban conversion therapy in the state.
Lawmakers in Utah are fronting a bipartisan push to outlaw conversion therapy in the ultra-conservative state.
As the bill goes before the GOP-dominated Utah legislature, the state’s governor Gary Herbert has indicated that he would support the legislation if it reaches his desk.
In a news conference on February 28, he said: “I think conversion therapy, how we define conversion is the key issue there, but some of the things being done to young people seem to be barbaric, and ought to be eliminated.
“I have no problem with some of the conversion methods being banned. I think they’re not productive.”
Mormon Church will not resist ban on gay cure therapy in Utah
Utah state Senator Daniel McCay and Representative Craig Hall, both Republicans, introduced the bill to outlaw the practice on February 21.
The Mormon Church, which dominates politics in Utah, has agreed not to resist the bill, which includes some religious freedom protections for “clergy members or religious counsellors.”
Equality Utah executive director Troy Williams said: “For decades, LGBTQ Utahns have been subjected to the harmful and fraudulent efforts of conversion therapy, and it’s sadly still happening.
“We still meet young people who are being told they can change their sexual orientation or gender identity, and the impacts are devastating. We are grateful to Representative Hall and Senator McCay for sponsoring this bill to protect our youth.”
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“We are grateful that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recognises the harms of conversion therapy and has denounced the practice.”
Governor of Utah also backs LGBT+ hate crimes protections
Herbert also told reporters he may back a bill that would add hate crime protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity to Utah law for the first time.
The governor said: “The hate crimes legislation, I think we always have believed there are some issues that have enhanced penalties attached to crime.
“You kill a policeman, you have an enhanced penalty. You kill someone in prison, you have an enhanced penalty.
“You have a certain sector of society that’s [facing] harassment, killing, criminal activity against an individual.
“I think it is OK, or at least appropriate for debate, for there to be an enhanced penalty. As that works its way through the legislature, I’m not opposed to it.”
He added: “I understand the concept and I’m OK with that. I’ll have to take a look at the bill in its complete form to see if I’ll support it, but we’ll work with the sponsors to get it right.”
The comments mark a significant departure from Herbert’s previous stances on LGBT+ issues.
When same-sex marriage became legal in 2015, Herbert said he was “disappointed” that the US Supreme Court had acted to “usurp state authority and overrule the voice of the people of Utah.”