Utah Republicans gut bill to ban gay cure therapy

Lawmakers in the Utah House of Representatives

Republicans have gutted a bill that would have banned gay cure therapy in Utah.

A group of lawmakers in Utah had fronted a bipartisan push to outlaw conversion therapy in the ultra-conservative state, putting forward a bill that 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.

However, the bill failed to make it over its first legislative hurdle intact, with lawmakers on the Utah House Judiciary Committee opting to  move forward with an amended bill that LGBT+ campaigners fear will do more harm than good.

Utah Republicans gut contents of gay cure therapy bill

The revised bill approved on Tuesday (March 5) limits restrictions to physically harmful practices “that causes nausea, vomiting, or other unpleasant physical sensations” or involve “electric shock or other electrical therapy,” while permitting therapies which do not include an active promise to “permanently change” orientation.

Troy Williams of Equality Utah said: “They’ve diluted the definition of conversion therapy and would really allow a safe harbour for conversion therapists to evade the definition and continue harmful practices.”

Lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee voted to gut the original bill and substitute its contents by a vote of 8-4.

All eight of the lawmakers who voted to change the bill are Republicans. The four lawmakers who voted to preserve the original bill were its Republican sponsor Craig Hall, the committee’s two Democratic members, Brian King and Mark Wheatley, and a retiring Republican lawmaker, Dixon Pitcher.

The committee voted along the same line to approve the revised bill, sending it to the full House of Representatives.

The gay cure ban bill's sponsor, Rep. Craig Hall

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Craig Hall.

Anti-LGBT lobbying group fought to kill gay cure bill

The changes were lobbied for by Family Watch International, an anti-LGBT group which has previously claimed gay people are “more likely to engage in paedophilia,” and has asserted that gay lifestyles cause “heartache, disease, and in some cases even death.”

Rep. Craig Hall, who brought the original bill, says the replacement legislation “will not prevent conversion therapy.”

In a statement posted on Facebook, Hall added: “I’ve finally had some time to reflect on this… I am indeed disappointed my version of the bill did not pass the committee.

“I sincerely felt it was the right way to go. But that’s sometimes part of the legislative process. We always knew it would be an uphill battle.”

He added: “One thing I didn’t anticipate is how much of a privilege it would be to sponsor this legislation. I met amazing people I likely would have never met.

“Dozens have reached out and shared their most personal stories, many of which are simply heart-wrenching. I have been moved to tears several times.”

The lawmaker added: “I’m certain this session will not be the end of this important discussion. Solutions need to be found.”