The sponsor of a proposal in California that would have called any financial transaction involving counseling against same-sex attractions – a conference fee, a book purchase and more – consumer fraud has pulled his proposal.
AB2943 was just one vote short of the governor’s desk, and it had virtually unanimous support from Democrats who are in the majority in the state Assembly and Senate.
But it had been condemned by faith leaders as a virtual ban on the sales of the Bible, which includes text condemning homosexuality.
The Sacramento Bee reported Friday Assemblyman Evan Low said after meeting with faith leaders, he dropped his plan.
“I left those productive conversations feeling hopeful. I believe every person who attended these meetings left with a greater understanding for the underlying reason and intention of this bill to create a loving and inclusive environment for all,” the Democrat said in a statement. “However, I believe there is still more to learn.”
The deadline for a vote also was Friday.
Assembly Bill 2943 would have made it against the law – a “consumer fraud” – to sell any service intended to change an individual’s sexuality or gender identity.
Such counseling, which studies show is effective, is anathema to homosexuals and lesbians, because it takes away their argument that they were born that way and cannot change.
It reveals the decision to choose an alternative sexual lifestyle as just that – a decision, even if there are factors that push a person in that direction.
The state already adopted such a prohibition for counseling for minors.
Low, a homosexual, claimed those therapy programs inflict abuse on people.
That claim also was made just this week by Chelsea Clinton, who erupted when it was reported some ads promoting that therapy found their way on the pages of Facebook.
Following user complaints, Clinton stormed into the discussion on Twitter:
“Child abuse. ‘Conversion therapy’ is child abuse. There are not two sides to this question and these ads – and the practices they promote – should be illegal everywhere. Full stop,” she wrote, apparently tossing the Constitution’s free speech protections into the dustbin.
The London Daily Mail reported that a Facebook user named Alystair Ryder had complained of an ad for a book titled “Help for Men with Same-Sex Attraction.”
He said the ad left him “shaken.”
According to the British paper, users said that when they clicked on an option to find out why they were being shown the ads, they were informed it was because they showed interest in “gender” issues.
Critics of the plan had promised an immediate challenge in court because of the free speech implications.
Officials with the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund expressed gratitude that it was gone for now.
A statement issued by the group said: “The Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund is dedicated to the preserving the First Amendment rights of all Americans. If passed, AB 2943 would have criminalized even ordinary religious speech on same-sex attraction, and it also would have forbidden LGBT persons from making a deeply personal choice to explore conversion therapy.
“We applaud Assemblymember Low for understanding he represents all his California constituents, regardless of political ideology or sexual orientation. His choice to at least listen to the millions of Californians who opposed AB2943 should be a model example for all elected politicians.”
The California Family Council and other groups has actively opposed it.
From the National Center for Law and Policy, spokesman Dean Broyles said, “I am grateful to Evan Low for listening to pastors and religious leaders who were legitimately concerned about how AB 2943 targeted, chilled, and censored religious beliefs and speech.
“Tolerance is a two-way street. As recently confirmed in the NIFLA v. Becerra and Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission rulings at the U.S. Supreme Court, we still have a First Amendment that protects conscience and religious beliefs, even unpopular beliefs not approved by the state. Change is possible and we need to preserve freedom of choice here. Citizens struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria must remain free to choose to seek the counseling assistance they desire and need.”
Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute added, “This should be a great encouragement to the faith community in California that active engagement with lawmakers can still make a difference.”
The legislation had been looming amid the release of a Liberty Counsel study showing that such therapies overwhelmingly are effective.
The study, titled “Effects of Therapy on Religious Men Who Have Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction,” authored by Paul Santero, Neil Whitehead and Dolores Ballesteros, all PhDs, introduces its findings by noting that the American Psychological Association and other organizations “have formally claimed that sexual orientation change therapies should not be used because they are probably ineffective and may cause harm.”
However, the authors report: “A survey asking for negative and positive experiences of 125 men with active lay religious belief who went through sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) strongly conflict with those claims. In our study, most of those who participated in group or professional help had heterosexual shifts in sexual attraction, sexual identity and behavior with large statistical effect sizes, similarly moderate-to-marked decreases in suicidality, depression, substance abuse, and increases in social functioning and self -esteem. Almost all harmful effects were none to slight.”
This result, Liberty Counsel explains, “strongly refutes claims the American Psychological Association and other organizations have made aimed at discouraging counsel to change unwanted same-sex attractions, behavior, and identity.”
WND reported on when former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, now a news commentator, warned of “a terrible storm that’s brewing on the horizon.”
“You may have heard the news or seen the reports, but people of faith in California are bracing for one of the most dramatic ideological shifts away from the First Amendment in our nation’s history,” Huckabee said. “It’s the kind of storm that destroys the foundations of liberty and a free society.”
Huckabee said it “prevents faith-led counselors from assisting clients with same-sex attraction or gender confusion. It prohibits churches from holding any ticketed events addressing topics of sexuality.”
“But it’s FAR more reaching than that,” he added. “This means the sale of ANY book that states the practice of homosexuality or transgender identification as immoral actions would be illegal in California. … This could include the Bible!”
Although the legislation’s sponsors deny it, he said, “legal experts agree that AB 2943 is so broadly worded in its description of prohibited activities that it can easily be interpreted to stop the sale of goods and services that promote a biblical worldview!”
WND has reported that a lawmaker and an LGBT activist have admitted that the bill targets “pastors” and members of the “faith community.” A video showed California state Assembly member Al Muratsuchi admitting he wants to target people of faith.
After all, the lawmaker argued, the First Amendment “does not prohibit banning fraudulent conduct.”
“The faith community, like anyone else, needs to evolve with the times,” he declared.
Meanwhile, in a speech at Google headquarters, LGBT activist Samuel Brinton promised to “figure out” how to stop “pastors” and churches from offering such counseling.
“I may not be able to find every little camp … every pastor, but I can make it something that is culturally unacceptable,” he said. “Yes, it’s directly affecting mental health professionals, but by proxy, it’s affecting everyone else.”
The California bill had been approved by the Assembly, then the Senate, and was awaiting only another vote in the Assembly to consider Senate amendments.