Utah governor says LDS concerns can be addressed, but defends rule banning conversion therapy

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Governor Gary Herbert defended his decision to push for a rule to ban conversion therapy on LGBTQ children and said state officials are working to develop “a good rule-based on science.”

Speaking to reporters at his monthly news conference on KUED, the governor did say he believed some concerns raised by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “can be addressed.”

“There might be some clarifying language needed to make sure that people are not jumping to unwarranted conclusions,” he said. “Let’s just wait for the process to finish.”

The governor said the legislature could also weigh in on any proposed rule. He also said it was appropriate for the Latter-day Saint faith to weigh in.

“Their comments are just as important as any other comments, but no more important than other comments,” the governor said. “That’s just part of the mix out there of people weighing in and letting their voice be heard. That’s the way the process works and I appreciate everybody speaking their mind and saying here are some concerns and here’s what we can do to address it.”

Marty Stephens, the Church’s government affairs director, said in an interview with FOX 13 on Wednesday that while they initially did not oppose the legislative bill to ban conversion therapy, they felt the rule did not adequately address parental rights and religious rights. He also insisted the Church does not support conversion therapy and therapists part of its Family Services Arm have not practiced it for years.

Conversion therapy, a widely discredited practice of attempting to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, has been a hotly debated topic on Utah’s Capitol Hill. LGBTQ rights and suicide prevention groups have urged a ban to help combat Utah’s high youth suicide rate.

The bill’s sponsor has said the rule is very similar to what he originally proposed in the legislature.

After the bill failed to pass, LGBTQ youth who had gone through conversion therapy protested and the governor issued an apology to them over how the legislation was handled. He then directed the Utah Department of Commerce to begin drafting a rule that would effectively ban it. More than 2,400 comments were submitted on the rule, which is still under consideration.

Watch the governor’s monthly news conference here:

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