Utah has become the 19th state to ban so-called "Gay Conversion Therapy," a widely-discredited practice that seeks to change a person's sexual orientation through therapeutic interventions, PBS News reports. The passage of the law was somewhat unexpected, considering Utah's status as one of the most religiously-conservative states in the nation.
Representative Craig Hall, a Republican, introduced the bill. It took considerable debate, both within Utah's legislative body as well as among Utah residents, but ultimately the legislation passed.
One key point of contention regarding the bill was that -- in its original form -- there were no exceptions allowed for clergy. However, after some back-and-forth, the wording of the bill was changed to specifically allow church leaders, and church laity who are also practicing therapists, to provide "spiritual counseling."
The dominant religion in Utah is Mormonism, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The Church opposes same-sex marriage and its teachings proclaim that same-sex attraction is sinful. However, the institution's doctrine also calls for kindness and compassion for LGBTQ people.
Still, some pockets of resistance to the new rules remain. Many Utahans are concerned, for example, that the bill would prevent parents from getting help for children with "unwanted" same-sex attraction. They are also concerned that it could theoretically keep therapists from talking about sexuality with kids.
Utah's LGBTQ community, however, welcomed the new rules.
Nathan Dalley, 20, said he was made to endure gay-conversion therapy when he was a teen. It only led to him attempting to commit suicide, not change his sexual orientation, he continued.
"Ultimately, I'm grateful to live in a state like Utah where we say you matter to everyone," he said.
Similarly, Cliff Rosky, a law professor who sits on the advisory council for the group Equality Utah, said that protecting children from suicide is not a conservative or a liberal issue, it's a human one.
"This is no longer a partisan cause, we all agree on how important it is to protect children from suicide," he said.
Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which has pushed for such bans in other states, said that the time has come for Utah to enact the ban.
"It's really given people a lot of hope," Minter said.
The Utah Psychological Association also supported the ban.
So far, 19 states -- including Utah-- have passed bans on the practice. Virginia, Kentucky, and Texas are also considering similar bans that may be debated this year.