CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a law on Wednesday outlawing licensed therapists from attempting to talk children out of being gay, an exercise that leading medical organizations say has been scientifically disproven.
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.
“This bill is a major step forward in building a more equal and inclusive state,” said sponsor Sen. David Parks, a Las Vegas Democrat.
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.
“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.