Monday night, LGBT nemesis Karen England of the anti-LGBT conservative Capitol Resource Institute, shot out an Action Alert: “Bill Attacking Pastors & Counselors Before Committee.” The email peddled the usual fear-mongering, this time foregoing diatribes against transgender youth and going for the bigger picture: “California to Outlaw Speech.”
What AB 2943 actually does is expand existing California prohibitions on so-called “conversion therapy,” deemed both junk science and psychological abuse of minors in an earlier bill, SB 1172, by then-State Sen. Ted Lieu that Gov. Jerry Brown signed in 2012. That bill protects minors so once in Congress, Rep. Lieu introduced the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act (TFPA), the first federal bill to stop so-called “conversion therapy” as fraud.
“The irony of the conversion therapy industry is that the same people who are telling LGBT kids that they’re diseased are the same ones conveniently offering a high-priced, high-risk, ineffective cure,” Lieu said in 2015 introducing the federal bill.
“Conversion therapy sessions and materials are incredibly expensive, costing families thousands of dollars and offering no results. It’s a dangerous scam, and the government must act to protect LGBT Americans from fraudsters who take their money and lie to them.”
Out California Assemblymember Evan Low agrees, authoring AB 2943 with the backing of the LGBT Legislative Caucus to declare that “conversion therapy” or “reparative therapy” is “a fraudulent business practice that misleads consumers and exposes LGBTQ people to damaging psychological abuse,” according to an Equality California press release.
The bill came up for a vote on Tuesday in the California Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee. It passed overwhelmingly, 8-2, with Republican Assemblymember Catharine Baker of Dublin, recently endorsed for re-election by Equality California, joining the seven committee Democrats. AB 2943 now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
“So-called ‘conversion therapy’ is as ineffective as it is psychologically damaging. We’re grateful to the bipartisan group of Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee members who today recognized this practice for what it is: consumer fraud that harms LGBTQ Californians,” Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur said.
But the vote was not without drama. LA Times reporter John Myers tweeted: “An emotional end to #CALeg cmte hearing over #AB2943 to impose new limits on advertising paid services for sexual orientation “conversion therapy.” Opponent yells out over lack of time to rebut, author @Evan_Low then talks of his own struggles as a young man. Bill passes.”
But while LGBT Californians might assume so-called “conversion therapy” is an archaic issue, it is back as a familiar old hobby-horse for right-wingers to ride.
England is seriously pushing the speech angle since it’s often proven successful in debates over religious liberties. It is therefore useful to see the CRI/ADF arguments side-by-side with reality.
“A California Legislator has gone too far,” England wrote. “Assemblyman Evan Low introduced AB 2943, a bill that would outlaw speech.”
She then quotes the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF): “At its core, AB 2943 outlaws speech, whether offered by a licensed counselor, a best-selling author, or even a minister or religious leader. It targets a specific message-that an adult who is experiencing unwanted same-sex attraction or gender identity confusion can find help to address those issues-for censorship. The breadth of this censorship is staggering. ”
England pulls bullet points from ADF’s 7-page memo that ultimately concludes that AB 2943 is unconstitutional:
A licensed counselor could not help a married mother of three who is experiencing unwanted attraction to a close female friend or confusion over her gender identity overcome those feelings;
A religious ministry could not hold a conference on maintaining sexual purity if the conference encourages attendees to avoid homosexual behavior;
A bookstore (including online bookstores like Amazon) could not sell many recently published books challenging gender identity ideology and advocating that these beliefs should be rejected by society; and
A pastor paid to speak at an event addressing current social topics could not encourage attendees that they can prevail over same-sex desires or feelings that they were born the wrong sex.
Why these trumped-up scenarios? The Lawrenceville, Georgia-based ADF explains: “In these scenarios, there is a transaction (the counselor’s payment; the conference attendance fees; the cost of the book; and the pastor’s speaking fee) that triggers AB 2943. And under the bill, a person or organization who is paid by a consumer for goods or services cannot engage in any practice—including pure speech—that tells someone that they can overcome unwanted same-sex attraction or gender identity confusion.”
Here’s what the Legislative Counsel says the bill is really about as “An act to amend Sections 1761 and 1770 of the Civil Code, relating to unlawful business practices:”
—“AB 2943, as amended, Low. Unlawful business practices: sexual orientation change efforts.
Existing law, the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, makes unlawful certain unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices undertaken by any person in a transaction intended to result result, or which results results, in the sale or lease of goods or services to any consumer. Existing law authorizes any consumer who suffers damages as a result of these unlawful practices to bring an action against that person to recover damages, among other things.
Existing law prohibits mental health providers, as defined, from performing sexual orientation change efforts, as specified, with a patient under 18 years of age. Existing law requires a violation of this provision to be considered unprofessional conduct and subjects the provider to discipline by the provider’s licensing entity.
This bill would include, as an unlawful practice prohibited under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual. The bill would also declare the intent of the Legislature in this regard.”
And the first line of the intent of the Legislature reads: “SECTION 1.The Legislature finds and declares the following: (a) Contemporary science recognizes that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is part of the natural spectrum of human identity and is not a disease, disorder, or illness.”
It goes on from there, including multiple citations from reports and statements that essentially reflect the American Psychiatric Association’s March 2000 published a position: “Therefore, the American Psychiatric Association opposes any psychiatric treatment such as reparative or conversion therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that a patient should change his/her sexual homosexual orientation.”
But the Religious Right has their own set of truths that sometimes ignores reality, the law, science or decency. And “conversion therapy” is back on the front burner. Consider this Christian newswire press release Tuesday out of Oklahoma City, the heart of Trump country:
—“LGBT Activists Vow to Shut Down Christian Ministry, ‘Your Faith be Damned’
No longer content with widespread acceptance, activists are fighting to eliminate any program aimed at helping those struggling with same-sex attraction or gender identity
OKLAHOMA CITY, April 3, 2018 /Christian Newswire/ — “The level of hatred and bullying is not like anything we’ve seen,” says Stephen Black, who lived as a gay man for 8 years, over 35 years ago, and now Executive Director of First Stone Ministries is in the crosshairs of gay activists.
Black is the author of a ground-breaking book that reveals that 70-percent of people who want freedom from a destructive same-sex lifestyle find it. In Freedom RealizedBlack and his colleagues examined 25 years of case files and found incontrovertible evidence that people can and do change.
On April 6, First Stone Ministries (firststone.org) is hosting a public screening of the documentary film, Tranzformed: Finding Peace with Your God-Given Gender (tranzformed.org/). “This documentary is about 15 people who were unhappy as homosexuals and transgendered and wanted more in their relationship with Jesus Christ,” says Black. Gay activists have already sent death threats to a Michigan pastor and his family and are now setting their sights on Black.
Gay advocate and protestor, Sara Cunningham, vowed to close First Stone Ministries (she appealed for a $25,000 grant from Starbucks for her mission). Her goal is to mobilize and eliminate any mention of the possibility of change, even if people want it and even if it means a transformed life. “To agree to disagree on this issue and this type of ministry is no longer acceptable,” says Cunningham. But Black sees it differently, “In the last ten years, there has been an increasing attack on the gospel-centered message of freedom from homosexuality.” Activists are intent on shutting down any counseling that leads to new life in Christ and freedom from homosexuality.
Black is the board chairman for the national Restored Hope Network, a coalition of sixty regional agencies that help those who struggle with same-sex attraction. He says the idea of “gay Christianity” is an affront to everything Christ died for and giving people hope is what we should be about as sincere Christians, not just enabling them to stay stuck in a harmful lifestyle. “Freedom from homosexuality comes only through a new life of absolute surrender and a complete dependence on Jesus Christ,” says Black.”—-