Utah Officially Bans Conversion Therapy for LGBTQ Youth

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have now banned the discredited practice.

Lawmakers in Utah just took a major step to protect LGBTQ youth.

As of this Tuesday, the state has joined 18 other U.S. states and the District of Columbia in banning or severely restricting gay conversion therapy for queer people under the age of 18.

The landmark victory was met with some resistance. Supporters of the anti-conversion therapy bill—formally signed into law by Utah's Republican Gov. Gary Herbert—faced an uphill battle against conservative Utahns, many of whom belong to the state's influential Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"It’s really given people a lot of hope," Shannon Minter, legal director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told the Associated Press about the bill's passage, noting that Utah is one of the most conservative states to ban conversion therapy.

Though conversion therapy has been repeatedly discredited by doctors, legal experts, and LGBTQ advocates alike, the practice remains unregulated in most of America's 50 states. For queer youth in particular, it can be life-threatening: As NewNowNext reported last August, conversion therapy can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal ideations among survivors.

The Trevor Project, the nation's largest suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ young people, commended lawmakers in the Beehive State for taking a stand against conversion therapy.

"According to our national survey, 5% of LGBTQ youth reported being subjected to conversion therapy, and of those 5%, 42% reported a suicide attempt in the past year, more than twice the rate of their peers who did not report experiencing conversion therapy," said Casey Pick, senior fellow for advocacy and government affairs, in a statement. "Thank you to our friends at Equality Utah and all the local activists who tirelessly advocated for these protections that will work to save young LGBTQ lives in Utah."

In 2018, the Williams Institute, UCLA's LGBTQ policy think tank, estimated that some 57,000 underage queer people will undergo conversion therapy from religious leaders or other unlicensed practitioners before they turn 18.

Although roughly half of the nation's biggest cities do have laws restricting conversion therapy, advocates and survivors are still pushing for state- and federal-level policies to make the debunked practice a thing of the past.