SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints won’t stand in the way of a proposal to ban gay conversion therapy for minors in its home base of Utah, leaders said Wednesday, a position that advocates heralded as a milestone in the conservative state.
The announcement is key in part because LGBT members have historically reported that church leaders encouraged them to attend therapy aimed at changing their sexual orientation, said Troy Williams with the group Equality Utah.
“We are grateful that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recognizes the harms of conversion therapy and has denounced the practice,” he said.
Moreover, most members of the Utah Legislature are members of the church, and its positions can hold outsized sway.
Supporters of the proposal have worked with the church to address concerns about religious freedom and make sure that counseling in line with church teachings on marriage and sexuality won’t come under the proposed ban, said Marty Stephens, a lobbyist for the church.
The faith opposes same-sex marriage and sexual intimacy, but it has taken a more welcoming stance to LGBT people in recent years. In 2016, the faith declared that same-sex attraction is not a sin, a shift that came eight years after a backlash over the church’s role helping lead the 2008 fight for California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage.
The legislation set to be formally unveiled on Thursday will help bolster the mental health of LGBT young people amid an alarming spike in youth suicides in the state, Republican sponsor Rep. Craig Hall said in a statement.
The American Psychological Association opposes therapy seeking to change sexual orientation, and it has been banned in fifteen states and the District of Columbia.