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Weekend Read: Utah joins effort to protect minors from dangers of conversion therapy

In the wake of Utah’s statewide ban on conversion therapy for minors last week, SPLC attorneys Scott McCoy and Kate Kendell wrote an op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune to remind readers of the damage the dangerous practice causes.

“Conversion therapy enthusiasts typically brand gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth as sick, broken, deficient, and/or suffering from a mental illness or disorder,” McCoy and Kendell write. “Ignoring the fact that such experiences have nothing to do with sexual preference, their antidotes range from electroshock therapy to exorcisms to physical torture.

“But in reality, conversion therapists are the direct cause of the confusion they profess to cure, inflicting unnecessary shame, trauma and pain on LGBTQ+ youth for simply being who they are.”

They highlight the findings of a 2018 study in which more than 60 percent of young adults who were subjected to conversion therapy as minors reported attempting suicide.

The attorneys also point out that 18 states, the District of Columbia and more than 60 other municipalities already prohibit licensed professionals from providing conversion therapy to minors. 

The SPLC joined the fight to ban the practice more than eight years ago. That’s when we filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against a conversion therapy provider known as Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, or JONAH, over its fraudulent claims to “cure” clients of being LGBTQ+.

In a groundbreaking decision, a judge ordered the group to cease operations. But it turned out the group’s directors had started back up under a new name. So, in 2019, we sued again and won a permanent injunction.

“This is not legitimate therapy,” psychologist Lee Beckstead testified during our trial. “It’s outdated … it’s confusing, it’s misleading. It’s even reckless. And it’s harmful. It’s worse than snake oil.”

We’re proud that Utah has joined the ranks of states that will protect its youth from this fraudulent practice. And we’ll keep working to ban it everywhere.

Photo by Rick Bowmer/AP Images