Gov. Brian Sandoval signs ban on ‘conversion therapy’
Gov. Brian Sandoval on Wednesday signed Senate Bill 201, the bill prohibiting sexual conversion therapy on children younger than 18.
The law will prohibit psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses and other clinical counselors in Nevada from attempting anti-gay conversion therapy on people under age 18 beginning next year.
Some parents seek the treatment at anti-gay camps or religious-based therapy in an attempt to change children’s sexual orientation.
“Conversion therapy has been disavowed by medical experts and is considered a non-effective method of treatment that can cause harm to an adolescent,” said Sandoval. “This law will help protect some of our state’s most vulnerable youth.”
Sponsor Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, argued during hearings on the bill such therapies can cause serious emotional and psychological problems for the young people subjected to them.
The bill was amended to clarify it isn’t intended to interfere with religious counseling or faith-based speech.
The measure was approved 15-5 in the Senate and 31-8 by the Assembly.
“Banning conversion therapy makes Nevada a safer place for children who are at a higher risk for anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and even suicide,” said Parks.
Nevada becomes the eighth state to ban the practice on children, according to LGBTQ rights think tank Movement Advancement Project, joining California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont. New York prohibits private health insurance from covering conversion therapy and bars its use at state mental health facilities, The Associated Press said.
“No child should be put through the dangerous and inhumane practice of conversion therapy,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in an emailed statement.
Clergy members are exempt from the ban.
Legislative attorneys have said that, based on court rulings in other states, the law will not limit licensed therapists from using conversion practices or exploring similar exercises when they act in a religious capacity. But that is not explicitly stated in the bill — a primary reason that several of the 13 Republican legislators who opposed the bill gave before voting against it.
Among them, Republican Assemblyman Chris Edwards of Las Vegas, said it does not do enough to explicitly protect the First Amendment rights of therapists or parents.
Organizations ranging from the American Medical Association to the American School Counselor Association have said conversion therapy is dangerous, does not work and causes people to retreat from society, hide their identity or kill themselves.
Senate Bill 201 urges state licensing boards to discipline professionals who attempt to stamp out gay people’s sexual desires.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.