In 2015, State Senator David Parks (D-Paradise) introduced a bill to ban licensed mental health professionals from practicing conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth. After its lurid death that legislative session, SB 201 is back this year. Will Nevada become the seventh state to ban conversion therapy on minors?
SB 353 became one of the more sordid stories of the 78th Session of the Nevada Legislature. Senate Republicans delayed a committee vote for over a month before allowing a watered down bill to proceed. The amended conversion therapy ban passed the Senate 14-5 on May 22, 2015, only to die in the Assembly without a hearing during the final days of the 78th Session.
Nevertheless, Senator Parks persisted. He introduced SB 201 earlier this session. It’s now a stronger bill that covers conversion therapy administered by licensed mental health professionals to change a minor’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression. Parks, himself a LGBTQ civil rights pioneer in the Nevada Legislature, did not mince words when describing the purpose of SB 201 during its hearing at the Senate Commerce, Labor, and Energy (CLE) Committee.
“Conversion therapy is nothing more than getting LGBTQ youth to hate themselves.” – Senator David Parks
Several of those who testified on the bill confirmed Parks’ statement. Las Vegas LGBT Center Transgender Program Manager Blue Montana shared his own story of attempting suicide after escaping an Exodus International conversion therapy camp. “It’s not only unnecessary. It’s cruel and violent.”
In Carson City, Justine spoke as both a parent and a trans* woman in describing the need for SB 201. She asked why any children should be forced to become something they’re not. “It’s classic case of being a round peg jammed into a square hole. […] LGBTQ conversion therapy has not worked. The results are tragic.”
“I’d rather have a happy live son than a dead daughter.” – Justine from Reno
Additional tragic stories were shared during testimony, yet none of them had any effect on religious right stalwart Janine Hansen and her posse. She claimed SB 201 “won’t allow people to practice their religion”. Senators Kelvin Atkinson (D-North Las Vegas), Pat Spearman (D-North Las Vegas), and Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) all challenged this assertion. Spearman referred to her own ministerial training to explain the difference between professional mental health counseling and pastoral counseling. Cannizzaro walked the committee through the 2013 U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision (which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last year) that found a similar California conversion therapy ban constitutional.
Opponents argued over the language of SB 353 as part of their successful effort to kill that bill in 2015. In 2017, Senator Parks notified Senate CLE of his work with Gender Justice Nevada and Human Rights Campaign to further tighten up SB 201’s language. Just before the hearing, the Nevada Senate Democratic Caucus identified SB 201 as part of its Children’s Week agenda.