Las Vegas Sun

June 26, 2019

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Religious concerns meet bill banning therapy to convert gay, lesbian minors

The Center2

Steve Marcus

Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, Nevada’s first openly gay legislator, attends a rally at the The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada to celebrate a ruling that overturned Nevada’s prohibition on gay marriage in 2014. Parks is sponsoring a bill that would prohibit certain medical professionals from giving minors conversion therapy related to sexual orientation or gender identity.

A proposed ban on conversion therapy for minors has wide support from the medical community, but came up against religious opposition during a hearing Monday.

Senate Bill 201 would prohibit certain medical professionals from giving minors conversion therapy related to sexual orientation or gender identity.

Bill sponsor Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, said during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Labor and Energy that a similar bill introduced in 2015 passed a committee and full Senate, but never received a hearing in the Assembly. He said there have been unsuccessful legal challenges to similar laws in other states.

“Conversion therapy is nothing more than getting LGBTQ youth to hate themselves,” Parks said.

Some supporters of the proposal shared how they were negatively impacted by conversion therapy, while at least one speaker against the bill said there have been successes.

Nevada Families for Freedom was one of the groups that had a representative speak against the measure. Opponents say the bill infringes on parents’ rights as well as the freedom to practice religion.

Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, said he was worried about some of the specific words in the bill as well as whether certain religious officials would unintentionally get caught in the law’s scope.

Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, said he didn’t see the proposal as a religious bill.

Some members of the committee asked opponents to present science-based evidence of conversion therapy as a legitimate medical treatment.

“We should take off religious lenses and look at exactly what the bill does,” said Sen. Yvanna Cancela, D-Las Vegas. “It says there is no scientific evidence, no organization, that says conversion therapy is a viable means of any sort of psychiatric help. Thus, we have a bill in front of us that would ban that therapy from being enacted.”

The Nevada Psychiatric Association, Nevada Advanced Practice Nurses Association, American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and several other groups spoke in favor of the bill.

Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas, referenced legal examples that address concerns from opponents, and noted that courts have said parents cannot subject their kids to harmful behavior.

“There’s a big difference between somebody who is practicing conversion therapy and somebody who is counseling an adolescent and asking questions about how they feel about life,” she said.

Parks said he is working with the group Gender Justice Nevada on an amendment that creates one definition rather than two separate definitions for sexual orientation and gender identity.

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