New conversion therapy ban rule is likely to be issued say stakeholders

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Stakeholders throughout Utah have vocalized support for a new rule proposed by Governor Herbert that would ban conversion therapy.

The rule comes after previous attempts to ban conversion therapy in Utah failed.

The original concerning the issue sought to ban the practice of conversion therapy that attempts to change a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation. The bill was drafted in conjunction with the governor and stakeholders like Equality Utah, Utah Psychological Association and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This bill failed to become law after it was substituted with another version that changed the definition of conversion therapy from any practice or treatment that seeks to change someone’s sexual orientation and gender identity to a practice that claims it will change a person’s sexual orientation and uses techniques like electric shock.

This substitute bill caused many LGBT advocates to revoke their support because they felt it left too many loopholes for conversion therapists to continue practicing.

Governor Herbert directed the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing to draft a rule that was influenced by the substitute bill in June of 2019. This rule also failed to become a law after it received negative feedback from many stakeholders, including the Church.

A Church press release from October stated the Church worried the rule did not provide protection for someone’s religious beliefs and did not take into account the role of gender identity in a child’s development.

The new proposed rule reverses the changes of the substitute bill and brings back the wording and definitions of the original bill.

“Interestingly, the new proposed rule is almost identical to the language of my bill that did not pass during the 2019 legislative session,” said Rep. Craig Hall, the original bill’s sponsor.

Clifford Rosky, an Equality Utah Advisory Council member, said the new rule is likely to be issued because it has the support of all the stakeholders of the original bill.

“It would be quite surprising if it didn’t become the law,” Rosky said.

BYU political science professor Adam Brown said that rules differ from bills in that a rule comes from an agency within the executive branch rather than the legislature.

“It has the exact same force of law as a legislative act,” Brown said. “(But) the Legislature can pass a bill anytime it wants that would preempt an agency’s rule.”

In this case, the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing has been directed by the governor to draft the rule. The agency must follow certain steps imposed by the legislature for the rule to become law.

“In enacting a new rule, the agency must follow specific, transparent procedures, meant to ensure that the authority is used as the Legislature intended,” Brown said.

According to a press release from the governor’s office, the rule was published on Dec. 15 and will be open for public comment for a month. The press release stated that the rule could be in effect as early as Jan. 22, 2020. 

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