Utah has voted to ban LGBTQ conversion therapy for children, becoming the 19th US state to outlaw the discredited practice.
The conservative state – which has voted for a Republican president every year since 1968 – barred the practice after the Mormon church said it would support the legislation. Campaigners hope other conservative states could also ban conversion therapy this year.
Conversion therapy has been widely discredited as unethical and damaging to recipients’ mental health. A study in the UK in 2019 found that people who received conversion therapy were more likely to have suicidal thoughts, anxiety and depression.
The passing of the ban was reliant on the support of the Mormon church, which holds tremendous influence in Utah. The majority of state lawmakers and nearly two-thirds of the state’s 3.1 million residents are members.
The Mormon church opposes same-sex marriage and teaches that intimate same-sex relationships are a sin, but also urges members to be kind and compassionate to LGBTQ people.
The church’s support for the conversion therapy ban was conditional on assurances that church leaders and members who are therapists would be allowed to provide spiritual counseling for parishioners or families.
The original sponsor of the proposal, Republican Utah representative Craig Hall, applauded the rule going into effect, saying in a statement that it prohibits dangerous practices while protecting healthcare professionals.
“This measure will truly save lives,” he said.
The new rule bans Utah therapists from subjecting LGBTQ minors to the practice that the American Psychological Association has said is not based in science and is harmful to mental health.
The ban represents a major breakthrough for campaigners. There are signs that other conservative states may follow suit. On Tuesday the Virginia Senate also voted to ban conversion therapy as part of a set of bills which would protect LGBTQ rights. The issue may also come up in Texas and Kentucky this year.