Equality Utah executive director resigns from Governor’s Youth Suicide Task Force over changes in conversion therapy bill

Troy Williams. Photo Courtesy: YouTube

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, March 6, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — Troy Williams, the executive director of the LGBTQ rights group Equality Utah, resigned from the governor’s Youth Suicide Task Force Wednesday morning over changes to a bill banning conversion therapy.

House Bill 399 would have banned conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth. The bill was substituted Tuesday by House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Karianne Lisonbee, (R-Clearfield). The substitute removed gender identity from the bill’s language and only prohibited therapies that subjected children to extreme abuse, like electroshock or induced vomiting.

Williams was made a member of the Youth Suicide Task Force last year.

Equality Utah posted on Facebook Tuesday: “Today a majority of the House Judiciary Committee voted to protect conversion therapists. They supported a substitute bill that is a sham. It will not protect children from conversion therapy, or prevent any LGBTQ youth suicides. They ignored the leading medical and mental health experts so that they could provide safe harbor discredited and dangerous practices.”

Wednesday morning, Williams resigned from the Task Force, sending a letter to Governor Gary Herbert, Lt. Governor Spencer Cox and Rep. Steve Eliason, that was also shared on Twitter and emailed to the Equality Utah mailing list.

Williams also posted on Twitter: “Lisonbee’s sub was drafted by conversion therapists with the intent to protect them. That’s the language Governor Herbert supported. It also callously erased transgender kids. We’re tired of empty rhetoric from Herbert’s office. We won’t be window dressing for more photo-ops.”

The letter reads, in full:

Dear Governor Herbert, Lt. Governor Cox, Rep. Eliason,

I am writing to resign my seat on the Governor’s Youth Suicide Task Force, effective immediately. Last year, I considered it a distinct honor to be asked to serve. My hope was that your administration was serious about addressing issues related to LGBTQ youth suicide. I’ve come to realize that you are not.

When I first brought an anti-bullying proposal to the Task Force, I was shocked to learn that it wouldn’t even be considered. Further, a spurious story was concocted to cover the fact you were unwilling to even debate an anodyne LGBTQ inclusive bullying statute. But still, I held out hope.

At our February press conference, Governor Herbert, you made a promise that Phase Two of the Task Force would focus on Veterans, LGBTQ and Native youth. I was looking forward to working with you toward that worthy goal. As the months went on, I asked repeatedly when the Task Force would reconvene. Every time, you evaded the question.

We continued our work.

In January, I brought Dr. Caitlin Ryan to meet with Lt. Governor Cox to discuss the connection between suicide and conversion therapy. In good faith, we introduced our legislative proposal to your office first. We met and co-drafted language with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We brought the top mental health professionals on board.

But yesterday, Governor, you turned your back on LGBTQ youth and the medical and mental health establishment. By endorsing Rep. Lisonbee’s hostile substitute, you effectively cast your lot with a band of discredited and dangerous conversion therapists, who are still practicing techniques that harm youth — some lethally. Further, the legislation you endorsed excluded transgender children and will allow conversion therapists to continue their practice with impunity. And all that after grandstanding to the public with a
seemingly supportive but ultimately empty soundbite to make your position look reasonable.

It is clear you have no interest in keeping your promise, nor are you interested in the plight of LGBTQ youth. I will not be window dressing to provide the Task Force cover. If you change your mind and wish to seriously engage the LGBTQ community, you know where to find me.

With All Due Respect,

Troy Williams

The Governor’s Office has yet to respond to the letter publicly.

Gephardt Daily will have more on this developing story as information is made available.


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