Herbert apologizes for ‘enormous misunderstanding’ over conversion therapy bill change

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. File photo: Wikimedia Commons

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, March 8, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has apologized to young activists after he supported a highly modified version of House Bill 399, which was originally introduced to ban the practice of conversion therapy on LGBTQ youths.

Conversion therapy attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. HB 399, as originally written, was challenged by House Judiciary Committee chairwoman Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, who made a substitution motion.

The substitution removed gender identity from the bill’s language, and prohibited only therapies that subjected minors to extreme abuse such as applying electric shock or inducing nausea or vomiting.

But the substitution bill still allowed talk therapy to continue, still with the goal of changing gender orientation.

Immediate reaction

Troy Williams, the executive director of the LGBTQ rights group Equality Utah, resigned from the governor’s Youth Suicide Task Force Wednesday morning over the changes.

Williams letter, said, in part:

“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.”

Apology sought

On Thursday, a group of young LGBTQ activists gathered at the State Capitol to seek an apology from Herbert. After a  few hours, Lt. Governor Cox appeared, and delivered a letter from Herbert, which was shared on social media.

It reads:

“Dear friends, I realize there is much I do not understand about the issues that LGBTQ youth face every day,” Herbert’s letter says. “I also believe that you deserve to be heard. You deserve our help. And you deserve a future where you can feel safe, welcome and loved in our state. My intention in supporting the fourth substitute was never to harm you.

“We have had an enormous misunderstanding, and I am sorry.

“I met with Representative Hall this morning, and we agreed to continue working on this.

“I am prepared to make sure that we develop good policy that protects or LGBTQ youth. I invite you to work with us as we work with the legislature and all those affected to protect you and end abusive therapeutic practices in Utah.”


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