Iowa could be the third US state to outlaw gay conversion therapy now a bill to ban it has advanced.

A state Senate subcommittee advanced a bill on Tuesday that would ban practitioners from providing the therapy to minors.

After hearing the testimonies, senators voted 2-1 to advance the bill to a full committee hearing.

Many medical groups in the US have denounced the controversial therapy.

Denise Hagerla, a licensed independent social worker who testified at the hearing on Tuesday, said: “I’ve met many adults now who, when they were children, their families were engaged to say homophobic slurs to them, to call them terrible things, to affirm their worst fears that they will not have a family, that they’re heathens, that they’re not somebody who God has chosen to love because of who they are.

If the bill were implemented it would ban practitioners from providing a service to convert gay people under the age of 18 into straight people. The bill would also authorise disciplinary action by the licensing entities overseeing the practitioners who provide the therapy.

Bans have already passed in California, New Jersey and in Washington DC.

Those speaking against the bill stated that it was up to the parents to decide what was best for their children.

Danny Carroll, a lobbyist for The Family Leader, a religious organisation, said: “I don’t think anyone cares more about the health and well-being of those children than parents. We believe that parents should be free to pursue professional medical care for their children that they believe to be in the best long-term interest of their kids without any interference from government.”

Recently, a New Jersey judge ruled that gay conversion therapy was consumer fraud. Judge Peter Bariso Jr. said the idea that homosexuality was a disorder is outdated.

Last year, nine former leaders of the conversion therapy movement backed a campaign to ban the practice. The former leaders wrote a letter saying they knew the “terrible emotional and spiritual damage” it can cause gay people.