APNewsBreak: Utah lawmaker's LGBT posts anger activists


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A nationwide push to ban LGBTQ conversion therapy for minors looked like it could succeed in conservative Utah after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said it wouldn’t stand in the way, but the effort ground to a halt this week.

Conversion therapy has a long history in Utah, and the legislation drew fierce opposition from people who said barring therapists from talking about changing someone’s sexual orientation would violate free-speech rights.

It was seen as a milestone when the state’s predominant faith announced it would not oppose the ban, considering past teachings that being gay could be “cured,” according to religion scholars. The church has condemned conversion therapy and taken a more welcoming stance to the LGBTQ community but remains opposed to gay marriage and sex.

The Utah effort got momentum amid a national campaign to ban the practice this year. Fifteen other states have passed laws, and advocates in Utah said it would help combat an alarming spike in youth suicide.

But eight Republican lawmakers in Utah approved changes this week that advocates said effectively gutted the ban. They would have allowed damaging practices aimed at changing kids’ gender identity, activists said.

US Missionaries Slaughtered in Haiti, Ambushed by 3 Truck Loads of Gang Members - Biden Silent So Far

Republican Rep. Karianne Lisonbee sponsored the changes and insisted she was looking for a compromise that would still protect LGBTQ kids. But activists say some of her Facebook comments revealed by The Associated Press indicate that she supports the debunked practice.

In 2013 comments reviewed by the AP and confirmed by two family members, Lisonbee wondered whether it was “possible that living a homosexual lifestyle may cause individuals to choose to commit suicide?”

She also wrote a 1970s-era experiment in Utah using electric shocks to change sexual orientation was horrifying but shouldn’t be considered torture on subjects who volunteered.

Lisonbee said people have “successfully overcome” what she called “unwanted same-sex attraction” and that such therapy should be available to others who want it.

Asked Thursday about the comments that have since been removed, Lisonbee didn’t disavow them but said they came in an occasionally heated debate between members of her family over a story about same-sex marriage and the faith widely known as the Mormon church.

“I repeatedly said my stance was love and compassion and not judgment,” she said.

Asked about the comment on suicide, she pointed to legislative testimony by a man who said he felt despondent about his attraction to other men until he underwent therapy that helped him meet and marry a woman.

Troy Williams with the gay rights group Equality Utah denounced the posts.

“She’s falsely suggesting that people take their lives because they are gay,” he said. “That is reckless and dangerous rhetoric that reveals her extreme homophobia.”

State's Top Democrat Not Happy After Conservative University Regent Announces He Will Not Be Resigning

Lisonbee denied that allegation. She said conversion therapy is a “horrific practice” and pointed out that her version also would have banned electroshock therapy.

“My goal was to find something that could pass,” she said, adding that she’s now the target of angry messages.

But activists say therapists practicing conversion therapy generally don’t use outdated, painful techniques, and her revisions still would have allowed practices they do employ to try to change behavior and feelings.

“It’s much worse than doing nothing,” said Maria Olsen-Hiatt, 21, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after going through conversion therapy at age 14.

She came to the state Capitol on Thursday night to protest the ban’s defeat. Gov. Gary Herbert released a letter apologizing for supporting the changes, calling it “an enormous misunderstanding.”

Olsen-Hiatt said the outcome reveals a disconnect. While state leaders have reached out to gay teens as they work to prevent suicide, she said there’s still a widespread view in Utah that “LGBT existence is sinful.”

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands. Photo credit: @AP on Twitter
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
New York City