The Utah state legislative session is steadily moving along, with 34 passed bills as of Tuesday afternoon. Gov. Gary Herbert has only signed one into law so far, which was the tax reform bill that was passed early into the session.
One topic of interest that is making headlines across the country are those surrounding the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals. Some of the nationally-proposed legislation is being adapted in Utah, with some turning heads to other states.
Lawmaker proposes to ban hormone-therapy for minors
Rep. Brad Daw of Utah is proposing a bill that is causing some LGTBQ+ activist groups to protest, noting it targets transgender youth. The bill, if passed, would ban surgeries and hormone therapy for minors.
However, it would allow puberty blockers that temporarily put puberty on hold.
The goals of the bill have been endorsed and promoted by several national conservative groups across the country. One of these groups, the Eagle Forum, requested Rep. Daw to submit this bill to the Utah legislature.
Daw accepted the request and drafted his own version of the bill. Other versions of this bill can be seen in other state legislative sessions, like South Dakota and Missouri.
In South Dakota, the bill would make it a felony for medical providers to perform these operations or to offer hormone therapy to assist minors in changing genders. A similar bill in Missouri also threatens to revoke doctor’s licenses if they attempted administering gender-reassignment treatment.
In Missouri, the bill would rule that parents who consented to their children undergoing this treatment would be reported for child abuse to child-welfare officials.
Daw changed some of the language from these bills in his own draft, saying he wants to be sensitive and respectful to these minors and their families. However, he said he was still concerned about the medical procedures and steps included in the process of transitioning.
Activist groups are concerned, saying the bill will increase the dangers of mental health for these teens — especially concerns around depression and suicide rates.
Other teens and families reported they would leave the state if this bill passed.
Other state legislatures pushing to ban transgender girls from sports
Other state legislative sessions are hearing proposed bills that deal with transgender girls competing in sports. Under these bills, it would prevent them from competing with other girls in high school sports.
The bill is being pushed after an incident in Connecticut, where some female track and field athletes said it cost them top finishes and possible college scholarships.
The bill is currently pending in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Washington State.
The bill, or versions of this bill, have not been proposed in Utah.
Other bills catching attention
The Utah state legislature still has hundreds of bills to propose and approve, with more being presented each session.
Two resolutions proposing to censure Sen. Mitt Romney were dropped this week, after being proposed Thursday in light of the impeachment vote.
One bill called for the public censure, or disapproval, of Romney in the legislature. The other was to create a way to recall U.S. senators.
Both were dropped this week.
Changing how mental illness is charged in court
Under current Utah law, someone with a mental illness who commits a crime can be charged under the precedent “guilty but mentally ill.” Some Utah lawmakers want to change that.
Rep. Carol Spackman Moss is proposing a bill that would change the language to read, “Not guilty by reason of insanity.” This would reinstate a previous Utah law.
Moss said she wants the change because the way the law is written now causes inconsistency in judge rulings and sentencings.
She said to qualify for the current “guilty but mentaly ill” precedent, the person committing the crime has to be under the impression they’re not harming a human. They would need to be convinced they aren’t doing anything wrong.
Moss says this makes it possible for two people with the same mental illness to get two different punishments based on the delusion they were dealing with at the time.
If House Bill 167 passes, Moss said she thinks it would fix this inconsistency. However, some people say they are concerned because it would require the defendant’s attorney to prove they have a mental illness.
Pushing for an end to confession confidentiality
Rep. Angela Romero is pushing for her House Bill 90 “Child Abuse Reporting Amendmends” that would change how child abuse is reported within clergy confessionals.
The bill would require clergy to report any allegations of child abuse that are confessed in these religious meetings. Right now, clergy have an exemption to do so, but this bill would make it mandatory.
Romero said she is pushing for this bill after several survivors of sexual abuse approached her with their experiences, asking for a change. They told her stories of their perpetrators confessing to a religious leader, but nothing ever happened.
If the bill is approved, Utah would join several other states in creating this no-exemption policy. However, the Roman Catholic Church rejected similar bills in states like California, arguing it infringes upon the free exercise clause in the First Amendment.
The bill would affect several religions in Utah, not just the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church reports it already allows the offender to self-report to law enforcement, and clergy have to report cases of child abuse that are admitted in a situation outside of a confessional.
For more highlights from this week at the state legislative session, listen to episode four of From The Hill.