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‘Conversion therapy’ fraud bill passed by California Senate

False claims have riled up evangelicals

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Screen grab of State Sen. Scott Wiener (courtesy Samuel Garrett-Pate, Communications Director, Equality California)

Gird your loins. California lawmakers just passed a bill to make it harder to entice shame-filled parents with advertised false promises of a “cure” for homosexuality. By a vote of 25 to 11, state senators passed Assembly Bill 2943 that makes “advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts”—plugged by the religious right as “conversion therapy”—a violation of California’s consumer fraud laws.

Debate over the bill also boldly underscores why it is imperative to have LGBT elected officials at the table or on the floor arguing how legislation has a personal impact.

“This is a very personal issue to me,” Assemblymember Evan Low, chair of the California LGBT Legislative Caucus, said in introducing his bill before passage by the Assembly. “Growing up with so much hate, I, too wanted to find out if I could be changed and if anything could work because of the societal pressures that we have. There is nothing wrong with me. There is nothing that needs to be changed.”

The out members of the State Senate also offered personal stories in the last minute debate Aug. 16 before the bill passed. Out Sen. Scott Wiener introduced the bill on the Senate floor and outlined its merits.

“This critically important bill protects LGBT people from the fraudulent practice known as ‘conversion therapy,” he said. It prohibits fraudulent business practices “where people sell services that say, ‘if you pay me money, I can make you no longer LGBT.’ There is absolutely no medical or scientific basis to support the sale of these supposed healthcare or physiological services. Indeed, ‘conversion therapy’ is nothing short of physiological torture.”

Wiener noted that California already bans such harmful practices for youth. “This unacceptable rate of suicide happens because we are told by society that there is something wrong or sick or amiss about who we are. And that we need to change to be ‘normal.’ Well, we don’t need to change and we certainly shouldn’t allow people to commit fraud by selling services that harm people and that don’t work,” Wiener said.

Wiener squarely took on the false assertions made by the religious right. “I want to be very clear what AB 2493 does not do, contrary to some of the claims that have been made during this legislative process,” Wiener said. “This bill does not prohibit the sale of the Bible—that’s an argument that we’ve heard—that’s untrue. It does not in any way prohibit free speech. It doesn’t prohibit anyone from speaking with a counselor, including a religious counselor regarding their sexual orientation, as long as no money is exchanged, as long as no services are sold. Colleagues, this bill is long over due. We should be protecting people from fraud. That’s what we do in this legislature in this state.”

So-called “conversion therapy” has been thoroughly discredited by all major mental health organizations, with the American Psychological Association saying efforts to “change” sexual orientation through therapy have “serious potential to harm young people.” The bill to which Wiener referred was passed in 2012, authored by then-California State Sen. Ted Lieu. It prohibited state licensed mental health providers from practicing such “therapy” on minors under age of 18, calling it “psychological child abuse.”

Bill co-author Sen. Ricardo Lara also spoke on the floor. “Conversion” therapy implies there is something wrong with you, somehow you’re not normal,” he said, beliefs that led to the horrendous murders of 8-old Gabriel Fernandez and 10-year old Anthony Avalos at the hands of their parents.

Lara also referred to his bill, SB 524, signed into law by Gov. Brown in 2016, to regulate residential homes. The bill was intended to put a dent in the billion-dollar “troubled teen” industry, which feeds off unscrupulous promoters peddling “parental-rights” arguments to con concerned fundamentalist parents into sending their “troubled teen” to camps, advertised as providing “tough love” to change youth through abusive “reparative therapy.”

“We as legislators have a responsibility to protect Californians from harmful and deceptive practices. All Californians should be celebrated, cherished, and loved for who they are,” Low said after the bill passed the Senate. “I am grateful to my colleagues in the Senate for affirming their support for those in the LGBT community who need it most by voting for this bill.”

“For far too long, LGBTQ Californians have been psychologically abused by sham therapists who are supposed to be caring for their emotional well-being,” says Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. “We’re deeply grateful to Assemblymember Low, Senate Pro Tem Atkins and Senators Wiener, Lara and Galgiani for their leadership today—and to every member of the Senate who voted to protect LGBTQ Californians from these dangerous, harmful practices.”

Shannon Minter, Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, has been challenging these harmful, unscientific practices for decades, as thriving business for unlicensed and unscrupulous evangelical and Catholic “reparative therapists” such as Joseph Nicolosi at the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), based on Encino, California.

“This bill will put both consumers and practitioners on notice that taking money for ‘conversion therapy’ is consumer fraud under California law,” Minter tells the Los Angeles Blade. “That is important to ensure that individuals who are financially harmed by false claims that therapy can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity know that they are entitled to compensation under California law. It will also help deter these fraudulent practices by shining a spotlight on unethical practitioners who defraud vulnerable consumers by peddling quackery and lies.”

Nonetheless, AB 2943 is the new tip of the spear for political evangelicals who insist that the bill will prohibit the sale of the Bible and ban free speech. Even the once vaunted conservative Federalist.com challenged reliable watchdog Snopes as a “sneaky liar” after its explanation.
“Sure, it is virtually impossible that California will immediately attempt to ban the sale of the Bible itself. Not even the hard Left in California has that kind of chutzpah. But citations of Bible verses in the context of declaring homosexual practice and transgenderism to be morally debased could indeed get one into serious trouble with the law if it comes in the context of selling or advertising a product or service,” Federalist.com’s Robert Gagnon wrote.

“So you would be violating the law if you advertise that Christ can empower people not to engage in homosexual practice or not to identify as ‘gay’ or ‘transgender’ because such behaviors and self-identities are morally wrong, or if you offer to engage or actually engage in efforts to persuade people of Christ’s power to transform in this area, you will be in violation of California AB 2943, at least so long as your advertising or efforts involved in any way an exchange of money for goods or services,” The Federalist.com says.

“Consequently, selling religious or secular books (pamphlets, videos, audios, etc.), holding conferences, teaching courses in a college or seminary where tuition is paid, giving a speech at a paid venue, counseling people for a fee, or perhaps even posting online articles in a site that requires a paid subscription, in which it is asserted (in whole or part) that it is morally wrong for people to engage in homosexual practice or identify as “gay” or “transgender,” all could be treated as a violation of California Assembly Bill 2943,” asserts Gagnon.

In fact, an anti-LGBT panel in Washington DC July 26—“Parental Rights: A Matter of Religious Freedom?” —co-sponsored by the anti-LGBT James Dobson Family Institute (JDFI) and the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International and featuring Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council—spent a lot of time talking about ways to circumvent Low’s bill through use of the “parental rights” argument.

Anti-LGBT James Dobson Family Institute Public Policy Director Jenna Ellis described “what’s at stake.”

“This is a very dangerous bill and essentially, any book, any counseling, anything that discusses same sex attraction and is against that or trying to counsel away from that would be under the consumer fraud protection element of California’s law,” Ellis said. “The people who are not interested in protecting religious freedom, who are not interested in protecting parental rights, they are very shrewd to not just openly say, ‘We don’t want you to advocate against same sex attraction. We don’t want to advocate against these worldviews and moral issues that strike at the heart of traditional values and the family,’ but they’re willing so far as to say that this is fraud. That’s what’s going on in the United States and then even globally.”

“They want to take away any effort that a parent has to place that [confused] child in any type of ‘counseling’ or ‘psychotherapy’ to deal with what they’re going through,” said JDFI Executive Director Dr. Tim Clinton.

Out California Democratic Party Chair Eric Bauman is “not worried about the GOP using” the bill in arguments before the midterms. “The people who will vote for [Republican gubernatorial candidate John] Cox and the rest of the Trump cronies are already poised to do so.”

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Community Services - PSA

Restoring hope during a Pandemic

CalHOPE is made up of many teams of Peer Crisis Counselors located in many areas throughout the Golden State

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By Paulina Angel | When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, no one had any idea how severe it was going to be, and more importantly, how long it would last. As case numbers increased to the thousands, we found ourselves entering a new but temporary norm where community events, concerts, movie theatres and basically anything that has to do with gatherings being put on hold.

The most important and vulnerable aspect of the human species is community, and being deprived of social interaction can be damaging to a person’s mental health. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, & Queer Community was hit particularly hard.

As we’ve seen community events such as Prides around the world being canceled, to LGBTQ community centers closing their doors, and adding the political climate of GOP-led states passing Anti-LGBTQ laws, definitely put a strain on the community’s mental well-being. 

Now that we are entering a post-COVID world, even though cases are currently on the rise with the new Delta Variant, there is a new project that has been established to provide peer crisis support as part of recovery efforts for California, CalHOPE.

Funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and run by the California Department of Health Care Services, California Hope or CalHOPE, provides free outreach, crisis counseling and support services to Californians that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A couple of ways that we provide services to individuals are our CalHOPE Connect online chat that can be accessed via a computer, smartphone or tablet. The other option is our Warm Line, which individuals can call and speak with one of our counselors.  

CalHOPE is made up of many teams of Peer Crisis Counselors located in many areas throughout the Golden State such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. We have counselors that specialize in many communities such as Veterans, African-Americans, Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders, Parents & Caregivers, Latinx, Youth & Young Adults, and lastly the LGBTQ community.

CalHOPE also provides support groups and workshops, created personally by our many counselors accessible via Zoom or Google Meet. These workshops include topics such as coping with loss, which can range from losing your job to losing a loved one, dealing with anxiety, stress reduction, and more.

Currently, as social distancing restrictions are being lifted, CalHOPE counselors are getting ready to start going out into the community and talk to folks at local community gatherings. A lot of our counselors have so far spoken to folks at vaccination sites and city council meetings, as well as some of the Mini-Pride events that have occurred towards the end of June. 

Since the establishment of CalHOPE, we have seen support from organizations that are focused on medical and mental health, local city councils, elected officials, and several universities in California, as well as the Los Angeles Kings, San Francisco 49ers, and performers such as Sofia Carson, Los Lobos, Laura Marano, Krewella, and Grace Potter.

CalHOPE and its many groups throughout California are happy and honored to do this work and to ensure many Californians that they are not alone, there is someone here that is ready to help you or lend an ear. 

For more information on how you can utilize our services, visit us at www.CalHOPE.org

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Community Services - PSA

Shark Tank star Daymond John & Lowe’s to help LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs

Diverse small business owners are invited to pitch Lowe’s executives for a chance to sell their products online and in stores nationwide

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Daymond John, star of ABC’s Shark Tank (Photo by Cody Norman)

MOORESVILLE, N.C. – Lowe’s and Daymond John, star of ABC’s Shark Tank and New  York Times best-selling author, are announcing the next round of Making It…With Lowe’s, a nationwide pitch program that gives diverse entrepreneurs a chance to take their business to  the next level by selling on Lowes.com and in Lowe’s stores nationwide.  

Nearly one-third of small businesses in the U.S. were forced to close due to the pandemic, and  one-quarter of minority-owned businesses have temporarily shut their doors. Although the economy is re-opening, entrepreneurs continue to face extraordinary challenges as they work  hard to stabilize their businesses. Lowe’s is bringing back Making It… With Lowe’s at a time  when it is needed most, providing opportunities for diverse entrepreneurs to grow their  businesses amid obstacles that can feel overwhelming.

Lowe’s encourages people of color, women, veterans, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community to apply. 

Making It…With Lowe’s shines a light on the remarkable stories of diverse small business  owners who are often overlooked and underrepresented,” said Daymond John, star of ABC’s  Shark Tank, entrepreneur and investor who will once again host and lend his expertise to give  advice to the program finalists.

“Last year’s program underscored the importance of giving them an opportunity to break through traditional processes. This year, as so many diverse small  business owners begin the recovery process, it is even more important to provide them with a  much-deserved space to succeed,” John added.

The first round of Making It…With Lowe’s attracted more than 1,300 product submissions and the top suppliers received invaluable mentorship from Daymond John and Lowe’s merchants that helped them expand their reach, grow their business and connect with new consumer  audiences.

“As a company that began as a single store 100 years ago, we know firsthand how important  small businesses are to the communities they serve. Through Making It… With Lowe’s, we can  help diverse entrepreneurs reach their dreams of growing and scaling their businesses, all while  helping us find innovative, clever and solution-driven products that we’re proud to offer,” said  Marvin R. Ellison, Chairman and CEO of Lowe’s. “Making It… With Lowe’s is an extension of  our commitment to underserved communities and helps us ensure our products are as diverse  as our associates and customers.”

Lowe’s especially encourages applicants who are members of  the LGBTQ+ community, minorities, people with disabilities, veterans and women to apply, with  innovative products both in and beyond home improvement categories. Hundreds of  entrepreneurs will be evaluated for the opportunity to sell their product on Lowes.com, then 75  suppliers will be invited to meet with Lowe’s merchandising teams to be considered for  additional promotion.

Consumers will be invited to vote for their “fan favorite” among the top 15  suppliers. The field will then narrow to the five top suppliers and the fan favorite, who will pitch  their products to Lowe’s executives for an opportunity to receive a truly unique mentorship and  land on Lowe’s shelves and Lowes.com to reach millions of customers. 

Making It… With Lowe’s offers:

  • Thousands of dollars in business grants
  • Mentorship from Daymond John
  • Opportunity to sell products at Lowes.com and at Lowe’s stores nationwide

Making It… With Lowe’s is just one part of the company’s efforts to support small businesses,  and its overall efforts to increase supplier diversity as part of its Total Home Strategy. Last year,  Lowe’s committed $55 million to fund grants for minority- and women-owned small businesses,  as well as rural small businesses. Lowe’s and partner LISC distributed these grants to more  than 2,700 small businesses, making Lowe’s the largest donor to LISC’s Small Business Relief  & Recovery Program and COVID Rapid Relief & Resiliency Fund. 

As part of Lowe’s continued support of small businesses, the company will put the inspiring  stories of Making It… With Lowe’s finalists on display during an in-person pitch event at a  Charlotte-area Lowe’s store later this year. Visit Lowes.com/MakingItWithLowes to learn more about the program.

Today through July 30 at midnight PST, applicants are invited to apply at Lowes.com/MakingItWithLowes

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Community Services - PSA

“Parks make life better month,” proclaims LA County Board of Supervisors

Parks Make Life Better Month recognizes the positive community benefits of parks, open space, trails, recreation facilities and programs

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Santa Fe Dam Recreational Area (Photo Credit: Mayra Vasquez, Los Angeles County)

LOS ANGELES – The LA County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion Tuesday proclaiming July as “Parks Make Life Better!” Month in recognition of the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation (LA County Parks) and the vital role local, community, regional parks, dog parks, nature centers, trails, open space, and facilities have on contributing to healthy people and communities.

The motion, made by Chair Hilda L. Solis, Supervisor of the First District, comes after LA County Parks experienced its highest number of visitors and demand on services in decades as County residents looked for critical recreation programs and facilities during COVID-19. LA County Parks never closed parks, trails or restrooms and hosted programs such as food distributions, providing thousands of families stability, and supported recovery through COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites. During a time of great uncertainty, loss, sadness and isolation, LA County Parks staff stood together in the service of others to continue the safe operations of parks and outdoor spaces.

“Los Angeles County parks serve as an essential component of the County’s social fabric that unites people across regions and provides recreational opportunities for residents to live, play, and learn,” said Chair Solis. “Throughout the pandemic we saw a surge in foot traffic across parks and trails, affirming the importance of outdoor spaces in enhancing and supporting the overall health and well-being of communities. By declaring July as Parks Make Life Better Month, we acknowledge the role of parks in supporting community health and elevate the work of our park employees who have worked diligently to ensure the continuation of park programming at a time when it was most needed.”

LA County Parks also initiated grab-n-go events while simultaneously delivering pre-recorded and live virtual programming through LA County’s Virtual Recreation Center Parks From HomeThis exceedingly high volume of usage not only proves that parks are a crucial part of every, individual community they are in, but that they also serve as an entry point to care and social safety nets while being an anchor for those most impacted by community instability to seek refuge, rest and resilience.

“Now more than ever, youth, families and seniors need access to parks and spaces to reconnect with others, engage in physical activity and experience the health benefits being in nature and outdoors offers.” said Norma Edith García-González, Director of the County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation. “As we safely re-emerge from the pandemic this year, eliminating barriers to programs and services that promote health equity is essential. Parks Make Life Better month highlights the value of our Every Body Plays programming in providing access to swim, nature centers, recreational park programming in promoting health equity.”

LA County’s parks, recreation programs and facilities build healthy, active communities that aid in the prevention of chronic disease, and also improve the mental and emotional health of all community members. Recreational programs and services help residents experiencing violence heal from trauma and serve as safe havens. LA County’s open space and natural recreation areas ensure the ecological beauty of the community is preserved and provide a place for children and adults to connect with nature as they enjoy the outdoors.

Parks Make Life Better Month recognizes the positive personal and community benefits of parks, open space, trails, recreation facilities and programs, nature education, and sports for able and disabled children, teens, adults, and seniors. By elevating the role of parks in building healthy people and communities, our goal is to inform the public on the many benefits of accessing parks, facilities, programs and services.

The Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation manages 183 parks and operates a network of 70,079 acres of parkland, 475 sports amenities such as futsal, basketball, tennis, lawn bowling and multipurpose fields, 42 swimming pools, 15 wildlife sanctuaries, 10 nature centers that serve as a refuge for over 200 animals, 14 lakes – 3 of which are boating and swimming lakes, 5 equestrians centers, more than 210 miles of multi-use trails, the largest municipal golf system in the nation, consisting of 20 golf courses, in addition to the world-class Arboreta and Botanic Gardens and performance venues – Descanso Gardens, Los Angeles County Arboretum, Virginia Robinson Gardens and South Coast Botanic Gardens and the Hollywood Bowl and Ford Theaters.

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