Gov. Herbert directs state licensing officials to come up with rules to govern the controversial practice of conversion therapy

Gary Herbert 05

Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday he wants state regulators to come up with new rules to govern the controversial practice of conversion therapy.

A bill in the 2019 session aiming to ban the practice wherein therapists attempt to change a minor’s sexual orientation, eliminate same sex attractiwas dropped by sponsors after opponents were able to make changes to the legislation that rendered it effectively moot. Conversion therapy, sometimes referred to as “reparative therapy,” uses dangerous and discredited treatments to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Herbert said during his KUED press conference that he wants the state licensing body to come up with guidelines for regulating the practice.

“”They’ll use the best available science and have an opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t. What should be done and what shouldn’t,” he said. “This will help us get some better insight.”

Herbert has directed the Division of Occupational Professional Licensing to have rules available for public comment by September 16.

Several national boards governing therapy and psychology have come out strongly against the practice. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychatrity said conversion therapy “lacks scientific credibility and clinical utility” and “should not be part of any behavioral health treatment of children and adolscents.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Counseling Association, the American College of Phsycians and the American Medical Association have all taken positions in opposition to conversion therapy.

Herbert’s move does not prevent lawmakers from considering further legislation dealing with conversion therapy, but it effectively removes the decision from the political arena and puts it in the hands of experts who make the rules for practitioners in Utah.

“I certainly have some concerns about some of the abuse I’ve heard talked about, but I’m not a psychologist. This is not my background. I’m going to rely on the experts to tell us what should be done or not be done or how it should be done. These folks have the expertise and will have the ability to get expertise to give us guidance,” said Herbert.

The two sponsors of the unsuccessful conversion therapy ban from the 2019 session, Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City and Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, applauded Herbert’s action.

“We have a lot of work to do as we review this policy and look forward to continuing to work with the Governor’s office as we end this antiquated practice,” the two said in an emailed statement.