Democratic Assemblymember Evan Low unexpectedly withdrew his support yesterday for his own conversion therapy bill. It would have made the fraudulent practice illegal for adults in California. And now the religious right is declaring victory.
“The dangerous bill that would ban counsel and even portions of the Bible is dead,” Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver said.
In an email from the Liberty Counsel to supporters, the anti-LGBTQ organization wrote, “Adults with unwanted same-sex attractions or who struggle with unwanted gender behaviors or confusion may continue to receive counsel in California.”
“Victims of sexual abuse can continue to choose professional counseling help if they develop (as often happens) unwanted urges to engage in same-sex behavior or if they become gender confused and want to explore the possibility of change. AB 2943 was not in the best interest of counseling clients and was ideologically driven,” the email continued.
Low’s bill would have banned selling or advertising conversion therapy as a way to change someone’s sexual attraction from same-sex to opposite-sex. However, the openly gay politician said he needed more time.
The unexpected announcement came on the final day of this year’s legislative session. The Senate and Assembly had already approved the bill and was awaiting a final Assembly vote to send it to Gov. Jerry Brown.
In the email, Liberty Counsel admitted having plans to file a lawsuit in the event that the bill passed.
“Our lawsuit was ready to file. We were prepared to challenge this unconstitutional and dangerous bill if it passed. Thank God, this bill is now dead,” Staver said.
Then all kinds of religious rhetoric followed.
“This bill could have been used to ban the Bible, which directs people to trust in Jesus Christ to help them overcome unwanted same-sex attraction or gender confusion,” the email stated. “Even a reference to portions of Scripture could be banned if used to support or promote change.”
Scripture like “1 Corinthians 6:9-11,” which the email noted “specifically refers to ‘men who practice homosexuality,’ and then states, ‘such were some of you,’ clearly indicating that through a relationship with Jesus Christ there is hope for change in this area and every other area that conflicts with God’s design for each person.”
Staver said, “I am glad that California legislators recognize the many people, including our Liberty Counsel clients, have personal experience with changing their unwanted same sex attraction and others who have professionally helped their clients to change, reduce, or eliminate same-sex attractions.”
“It is not the role of the government to intrude into the counseling clinic and dictate what a client should want!” he added. “AB 2943 tried to control the private conversation between counselor and client, yet the implications of it reach far beyond silencing certain counseling. This bill substituted the government’s whim for personal choice.”
He continued, “It sought to silence and censor the Bible’s message of hope and change regarding unwanted same-sex attraction. It was best that the California legislature defeated this blatantly unconstitutional assault on free speech and the freedom to choose counseling that will help people in need.”
The Liberty Counsel then cited a study called “Effects of Therapy on Religious Men Who Have Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction,” wherein they ascertain that “talk therapy is quite effective [in anti-gay conversion therapy].”
Low, who steers the Assembly’s LGBT caucus, has said that the bill wouldn’t have affected freedom of religion. The reason is that the bill applied to commercial practices and financial transactions.
Another bill in 2012 limited the practice for minors. Low’s bill would have expanded the conversion therapy ban for adults as well.
“As a young person I often found myself confused about my sexual orientation,” Low said following his announcement to stop sponsorship of the bill. “This left me feeling very lost, scared, alone, and even suicidal. Many fellow members of the LGBT community are not as fortunate and do not have the support I did and have been subjected to the harmful and fraudulent practice of conversion therapy.”
He said he aims to resume working to pass legislation in 2019 “that best protects and celebrates the identities of LGBT Californians and a model for the nation to look towards.”