When Colorado passed a ban on gay conversion therapy last spring, it was seen as a function of the Democrats seizing full control of the Legislature, and the state's first openly gay governor, Jared Polis, was happy to sign it his first year in office.
Now Republicans in the neighboring red state are getting on board after Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced Tuesday afternoon that he is proposing a ban on the practice that seeks to convince teenagers who think they might be gay that they're really not.
"We're thrilled to see our neighbors in Utah protect LGBTQ youth from the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy, and thankful to the team at Equality Utah for putting in the hard work of bringing a diverse group of stakeholders together in support of this rule with the Herbert administration," said Sheena Kadi, the deputy director of One Colorado, the state's largest advocacy organization, told Colorado Politics Wednesday morning.
Herbert, a Republican and former chair of the National Governors Association, said in a statement Tuesday evening that his administration had undergone an exhaustive process and heard from “public leaders, organizations and policy groups who are unified in this supporting this critical effort to end the harmful practice of conversion therapy on minors.”
Colorado legislators led by former Sen. Pat Steadman and former Rep. Paul Rosenthal, both of Denver, attempted a ban unsuccessfully in three legislative sessions, passing the bill out of the House, where Democrats had a majority, only to see it die in the Republican-led Senate.
House Bill 1129 passed generally along party lines last session, with Republican Sens. Don Coram of Montrose, Jack Tate of Centennial and Kevin Priola of Henderson voting in favor of the ban in the upper chamber.
The historic Colorado ban this year was sponsored by Democratic Reps. Dafna Michaelson Jenet of Commerce City and Daneya Esgar of Pueblo with Sen. Steve Fenberg of Boulder.
Colorado is one of 18 states and the District of Columbia to ban conversion therapy for people younger than 18. No state bans it for adults.
The Colorado bill was opposed by conservative and traditional Christian advocacy organizations.
"Let's be clear: The left-wing activists pushing this legislation obviously don’t care about people with gender dysphoria," American Principles Project executive director Terry Schilling said at the time of Colorado's ban. "If they did, they would support letting them seek the care they desire from licensed professionals who can help them match their gender identity with their biological sex. Instead, these radical activists want to take that choice away from parents and children and force them into incredibly harmful sex change procedures. This bill comes at a time when hundreds of people across the globe are having regrets about their sex changes.
"Maybe Colorado legislators should put down the joints and start thinking a bit more clearly.”
Utah's won't go through the Legislature. Republicans have safe majorities in the House and Senate (a total of 59 to 16 Democrats), with Herbert representing a GOP trifecta.
Herbert on Tuesday announced that the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing will propose the new administrative rule preventing licensed mental health professionals to practice of conversion therapy on minors.
The rule is expected to mirror Utah's H.B. 399, which was introduced by a Republican who pulled the bill when he could not gin up support in the statehouse.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, very influential in Utah, is backing Herbert's proposed ban.
“I have learned much through this process," Herbert said in a Tuesday night tweet. "The stories of youth who have endured these so-called therapies are heart rending, and I’m grateful that we have found a way forward that will ban conversion therapy forever in our state,” said Herbert. “I’m grateful to the many stakeholders who came to the table in good faith, with never-ending patience.”