LDS Church raises objections to proposed rule banning conversion therapy on LGBTQ children in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints raised objections to a proposed rule that would ban conversion therapy on LGBTQ children in Utah.

The Church filed its objections on the final day of public comment for the rule.

“The Church hopes that those who experience same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria find compassion and understanding from family members, Church leaders and members, and professional counselors. The Church denounces any abusive professional practice or treatment,” the faith said in a statement.

“We teach the right of individuals to self-determination and the right of parents to guide the development of their children. We also believe faith-based perspectives have an important and ethically appropriate role in professional counseling.”

However, the LDS Church said in comments submitted by its Family Services division, “the Church is concerned that the proposed professional licensing rule is ambiguous in key areas and overreaches in others.”

“For example, it fails to protect individual religious beliefs and does not account for important realities of gender identity in the development of children,” the Church’s statement said. “We therefore oppose the proposed rule in its current form and respectfully request that it be appropriately amended to address the concerns raised in Family Services’ comments, or that Utah’s lawmakers provide statutory guidance on this important issue.”

But it remains to be seen if the comments could sway the state’s Psychologist Licensing Board, which has given a preliminary approval to the ban on attempts to change a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The Latter-day Saint church, a powerful cultural and political influence in Utah, could certainly still have impact in the legislature.

Earlier this year, Utah lawmakers introduced a bill to ban conversion therapy on LGBTQ children with the faith stating it would not oppose it. But more socially conservative lawmakers amended it to the point its own sponsor could not support it anymore and it was pulled.

In response to protests from LGBTQ rights activists and those who said they had been abused by conversion therapy, Governor Gary Herbert apologized over the way the legislation was handled. He then directed Utah’s Department of Commerce to draft rules regulating the practice and bypass the legislature.

At a hearing last month, dozens testified for and against the proposed rule. Supporters of the ban said it would help combat Utah’s youth suicide epidemic, while social conservatives decried it as stripping parents of their choice. The boards governing marriage and family therapists and psychologists have already approved the rule’s language and, unless something drastic happens, it would be adopted by Oct. 22.

The Utah Dept. of Commerce said at the hearing it had received more than 1,300 written comments with 85% in support of the ban on LGBTQ conversion therapy.

The LGBTQ rights group Equality Utah called the Church’s comments “profoundly disappointing.”

“The proposed rule would do nothing more than protect LGBTQ children from conversion therapy — a life-threatening practice that has been condemned by all of the state’s and the nation’s medical and mental health authorities. Studies have found that more than 60% of children subjected to conversion therapy attempt suicide. Suicide is the leading cause of death among Utah’s children, and LGBTQ youth are especially vulnerable,” Equality Utah director Troy Williams said. “It’s long past time to protect our state’s youth by prohibiting this dangerous practice.”

Read the Church’s comments to on the conversion therapy ban here:

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