The Governor of Utah has apologised to LGBT+ young people after a bill to ban conversion therapy was killed off.
Republican governor Gary Herbert had faced a sit-in protest by young LGBT+ activists outside his office on Friday (March 8) after Republicans in the state legislature blocked a bill to ban conversion therapy.
Herbert had initially backed the bill, but rights group Equality Utah accused him of throwing his weight behind a March 5 plot that saw the bill gutted of its contents.
The Utah governor apologised for his actions in a letter to the LGBT+ activists staging a sit-in outside his office in the state Capitol.
Utah governor Gary Herbert ‘sorry’ to LGBT+ youth
In the letter, he said: “My intention was never to harm you. We have had an enormous misunderstanding, and I am sorry.”
He added: “I realise there is much I do not understand about the issues that LGBTQ youth face every day.
“I also believe you deserve to be heard. You deserve our help. And you deserve a future where you can feel safe, welcome, and loved in our state.”
The letter was hand-delivered by Herbert’s second-in-command, lieutenant governor Spencer Cox.
Cox sat with the activists and spoke openly about the issue, expressing his own disappointment that the measure had failed.
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Utah governor faces task force resignation over handling of gay cure bill
The intervention came after Troy Williams of Equality Utah resigned from the governor’s suicide prevention task force in protest at the handling of the gay cure bill.
In his resignation letter, Williams accused the governor of turning his back on LGBT+ youth.
He wrote: “It is clear you are not interested in the plight of LGBT+ youth… I will not be window dressing to provide the task force cover.”
Taryn Hiatt, who leads the Utah chapter of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, also resigned from the task force over Herbert’s handling of the issue.
Republicans ‘gutted’ contents of bill to ban conversion therapy
The bill that was initially submitted to the legislature would have placed a legal ban on conversion therapy for minors in the state.
The legislation would have made “any practice or treatment that seeks to change the sexual orientation or gender identity” of a minor unlawful.
Lawmakers on the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee voted on March 5 to replace the proposal with a substitute bill that limits restrictions to physically harmful practices “that causes nausea, vomiting, or other unpleasant physical sensations” or involve “electric shock or other electrical therapy.”
The substitute proposal also excluded transgender people, and tacitly permitted therapies which do not include an active promise to “permanently change” orientation.
After the substitute drew opposition from LGBT+ campaigners it was shelved, killing off the push for action on the issue entirely.