The Nevada Legislature celebrated Equity Day last Tuesday, April 4 when the Senate approved two bills to protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy and to require foster parents to undergo training on working with LGBTQ foster children.
Senate Bill 201, sponsored by Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, prohibits mental health professionals from providing sexual orientation or gender identity conversion therapy to a minor.
If the bill passes in the Assembly, Nevada will join five states and the District of Columbia that have laws prohibiting conversion therapy for minors.
“Conversion therapy is a discredited practice that falsely claims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It is opposed by mainstream mental health practitioners and organizations,” Parks said.
SB 201 passed 15-5 with Republican Senators Pete Goicoechea, Don Gustavson, Scott Hammond, Joe Hardy and Becky Harris voting no.
Hardy voiced concerns with the bill both in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Labor and Energy and in the Senate floor meeting.
A Boulder City physician and member of the Mormon Church, Hardy said the bill could prevent a church member from counseling a minor on sexuality if the minor comes to them first.
Other concerns came from Janine Hansen, state president of the Nevada Families for Freedom.
“Our concern is that this significantly undermines the rights of parents as secured by the Supreme Court to determine the upbringing of their own children and this is just the beginning of how these rights will be undermined,” Hansen said. “This is just the beginning of how these rights will be undermined.”
Hansen said the bill would undermine the freedom of religion and the rights of parents.
In addition to testimony against the bill were several emotional statements from proponents, some of which being individuals who endured conversion therapy and those who helped patients recovering from the therapy.
Shirley Van Damme, a reverend in hospice care in Nevada told an emotional story of one of her patients, a Vietnam War veteran named John. She said John never recovered from his conversion therapy and said sometimes John would tell her that the conversion therapy he endured was worse than what he went through in Vietnam.
Alongside SB 201, the Senate passed Assembly Bill 99, which would require foster parents to undergo training on working with LGBTQ children and would require state and local agencies to treat a child in their care as having the gender in which the child has chosen to identify with.
The bill also heard emotional testimony from individuals who had experienced emotional abuse when they were placed in the care foster families that did not give them the LGBTQ care they needed.
The Senate passed the bill 18-2 with only Hardy and Gustavson voting no.