The Mormon church has said that it won’t fight a proposed ban on conversion therapy in Utah.
A bill to ban conversion therapy is expected to be introduced this week in Utah’s legislature.
The bill would ban state-licensed mental health professionals from trying to change the sexual orientation of minors, but it would allow non-licensed professionals like life coaches and clergy free to do so.
Marty Stephens, a lobbyist for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, said that the bill’s authors worked with the church.
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“We appreciated the willingness of the sponsors to work with us to make sure counseling in alignment with the church’s standards, such as abstinence before marriage, does not come under the definition of conversion therapy,” Stephens said.
He added that the sort of counseling that the church supports won’t be covered by the conversion therapy ban.
The church’s official stance is that all sexuality should take place within heterosexual marriage, and that even gay and bisexual people are expected to either have sex within a heterosexual marriage or to abstain completely.
The Mormon church taught in the past that homosexuality is a curable condition, but it no longer does and instead says that people can’t be expected to change their sexual orientations but they can be expected to abstain from sex.
“There are active church members who experience same-sex attraction and never choose to identify themselves using a label. Our primary identity will always be as a child of God,” an official church website on gay people says.
LGBTQ rights advocates in Utah welcomed the church’s position on the legislation.
“We are grateful that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recognizes the harms of conversion therapy and has denounced the practice,” said Troy Williams of Equality Utah.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Utah has the fifth highest teen suicide rate. The bill is being proposed to address that problem, since conversion therapy has been linked to suicidal thoughts.
If the bill passes, Utah would be the 16th state to ban conversion therapy for minors.