Lt. Gov. Cox apologizes to protestors over failed conversion therapy bill


LGBTQ rights activists holding a sit-in outside Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s office on March 7 received an in-person apology from Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox after demanding answers over a gutted bill that would have banned conversion therapy in the state.

According to a Twitter thread from Salt Lake Tribune and Daily Utah Chronicle writer Chistina Giardinelli, Cox sat down with youth protestors to read an apology letter from Gov. Herbert. Cox reportedly said it was a mistake to not spend more time discussing the bill with individual legislators.

He also agreed with protestors that LGBT advocates didn’t have enough say during the bill’s drafting period. He stated that saying parents have a right to conversion therapy “is like saying that parents have a right to push a child down the stairs.”

Gov. Herbert’s March 7 apology stated he never intended to hurt LGBTQ youth, and that he and Rep. Craig Hall, R-District 33 — the sponsor for HB399 — agreed to continue working to address conversion therapy.

“I am prepared to make sure that we develop good policy that protects our LGBTQ youth,” gov. Herbert said. “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.”

Hall’s original bill would have prohibited health care professionals from “providing conversion therapy to minors.” The process is defined in the bill as any practice or therapy that seeks to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a patient.

The substitution bill, which was proposed on March 5 by Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Syracuse, removed “gender identity” and changed conversion therapy’s definition to “claims that will result in a complete and permanent reversal in the patient or client’s sexual orientation.” The bill further narrowed down the therapy to process that subjects patients to electric shock, vomiting or other unpleasant sensations.

Although the original bill had received support from Gov. Herbert, the Utah legislature and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the substitution bill — which also received an endorsement from Gov. Herbert — was tabled after Hall chose not to pursue further passage of the modified bill, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Troy Williams, the executive director of LGBTQ rights group Equality Utah, resigned from Gov. Herbert’s task force following the bill’s failure. In a March 6 statement addressed to Gov. Herbert, Williams announced his resignation and accused the Governor of “turning his back on LGBTQ youth.”

“By endorsing Rep. Lisonbee’s hostile substitute, you effectively cast your lot with a band of discredited and dangerous conversion therapists,” Williams said. “It is clear you have no interest in keeping your promise.”

Hall also released a series of tweets on March 6 saying he was “disappointed” his version of the bill was not passed. He also said he knew passing the bill would be a challenge, but felt the legislation was the “right way to go.”

“The legislative process doesn’t always include immediate success. We knew it would be an uphill battle,” Hall said.


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