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Why was California’s ‘conversion therapy’ bill scuttled?

Author Evan Low wants a better law

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Evan Low (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Aug. 31, the end of the California legislative session, started out joyfully for LGBT Californians. Landmark LGBT bills had already been signed or were headed to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. California really did feel like a beacon of hope.

But suddenly out Assembly member Evan Low pulled his Assembly Bill 2943, legislation to declare so-called “conversion therapy” a fraudulent practice. It was a shock. The bill passed the Senate on Aug. 16 by a vote of 25-11. It had backing from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the California Medical Association, and the Consumer Attorneys of California. AB 2943 seemed set to prohibit the practice of advertising or selling fraudulent claims to change someone’s LGBT sexual orientation or gender identity.

Plus, Brown was expected to sign it. In 2012, he told the San Francisco Chronicle after signing then-State Sen. Ted Lieu’s SB 1172: “This bill bans non-scientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide. These practices have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.”

Low issued a press release that was both emotional and somewhat confusing. “Authoring Assembly Bill 2943 is one of the most personal decisions I have made since taking office,” he said. As a confused young person, he hid his feelings “because I was afraid of what others would think of me. This left me feeling very lost, scared, alone, and even suicidal. I wondered if I could change. Coming out was not an easy experience” but he found support, unlike many others who were subjected to conversion therapy. He authored AB 2943 “to ensure a remedy for those who are deceived by this deceptive practice.”

Low tweaked AB 2943 in response to intense opposition as it progressed through the legislature. He also spent the past few months meeting with faith leaders throughout the state. 

“I was heartened by the conversations,” Low said. “A number of religious leaders denounced conversion therapy and recognized how harmful the practice is while acknowledging it has been discredited by the medical and psychological communities. 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. However, I believe there is still more to learn.”

 Low pulled AB 2943 to create a stronger bill produced in a more “inclusive process not hampered by legislative deadlines” that will also serve as a model for the nation. “It is my obligation as a Legislator to make this difficult decision in the interest of finding common ground. The path towards full equality is a long journey, but a journey best traveled together. I invite you to join me,” Low said.

Low’s backers stood behind him, calling him a hero. But others were skeptical. Had he caved to the religious right? Was this really a matter of political expedience to avoid giving anti-LGBT Republicans a talking point before the mid-terms.

Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur says no. “Absolutely not,” Zbur told the Los Angeles Blade. “Both chambers already voted on the bill, and we were proud of the bipartisan support we received. We think most voters appreciate that their elected leaders stood up for LGBTQ Californians and to protect consumers from this fraudulent, dangerous practice.”

AB 2943 really was pulled to get more support, he says, including from the surprising new group of faith leaders who opposed the bill—and opposed ‘conversion therapy.’

“This is a really important issue and we’re committed to getting it right,” Zbur says. “We saw an opportunity to work with key stakeholders—including members of the LGBTQ community, medical and mental health professionals, and faith leaders who oppose conversion therapy—to strengthen the legislation, make sure it’s ironclad and continue building consensus around this issue among Californians. Because the state’s existing consumer protection laws already safeguard the LGBTQ community against these dangerous, discredited and fraudulent practices, we felt that it was more important to take additional time and make sure we send the strongest possible policy to the governor than it was to get this done by an arbitrary legislative deadline.”

Past religious right opposition to banning “conversion therapy” has used arguments based on religious liberty and parental rights. But this time, groups such as Family Research Council, Focus on the Family and Alliance Defending Freedom, promoted myths and misinformation that the bill “would have labeled the essential Biblical belief of life transformation through Jesus as an unfair and deceptive practice,” as Anne Paulk, Executive Director of Restored Hope Network, put it.

Other, more nuanced misinformation had to be cleared up, as well. “For example,” says Zbur, “one nuance that’s important we’re clear on is the distinction between so-called ‘conversion therapy’ or sexual orientation change efforts and traditional, neutral counseling that’s aimed at facilitating a patient’s exploration of their identity and self-acceptance. We need to make sure that we’re clear on where that gradation starts, and that takes time to get right.”

The reaction from the religious right was surprising. “We want to thank Assemblyman Low for considering the repercussions of this bill and making the decision to pull it,” Karen England, head of the anti-LGBT Capitol Resource Institute, wrote. “We believe that we can have disagreements on policy and even life decisions, yet do so in a respectful manner, and that is what we have aimed to do throughout this process.”

Hold on. This should be an interesting ride.

 

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West Hollywood

West Hollywood in brief- City government in action this week

Free Document Shredding and Electronic Waste Collection Event, Pickleball Tournament at Plummer Park, Sunday Evening Concert Series Continues

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Photo by Uriel Malak Brewer/Facebook

WEST HOLLYWOOD – The City of West Hollywood will host the SPCA-LA Low-Cost Vaccination Clinic at the West Hollywood Community Center at Plummer Park, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard, in the outdoor patio area. 

Pop-Up Clinic will Take Place on Saturday, July 16 and Will Provide Discounted Vaccinations, Microchips, and De-Worming

The clinic will take place on Saturday, July 16, 2022 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Masks are not required, but are recommended for COVID-19 health and safety. Stay home if you are feeling ill. Clinic staff will be wearing masks, gloves, and face shields. Exam areas will be sanitized between clients and hand sanitizer will be available.

All dogs must be on a leash or in a carrier; all cats must be in carriers. Participants are advised to bring medical records for dogs and cats, if such documents are in possession. Cash and credit cards are accepted. 

Services offered will include:

  • $30 CIV (Canine Influenza)*** vaccination for dogs
  • $30 Lepto (Leptospirosis)*** vaccination for dogs
  • $25 DHPP vaccination for dogs
  • $25 FeLV vaccination for cats
  • $25 FVRCP vaccination for cats
  • $10 Rabies vaccination for cats and dogs
  • $20 Flea Treatment for cats and dogs
  • $20 Deworming treatment for cats and dogs
  • $30 Microchips** for cats and dogs
  • $60 Kitten Package for kittens 6-12 weeks old. Includes FVRCP, de-wormer, and microchip
  • $70 Puppy Package for puppies 6-12 weeks old. Includes DHPP, Bordetella, de-wormer, and microchip

* Services are available first-come, first-served, while supplies last. ** Registration not included. *** CIV and Lepto vaccines requires boosters. Please make an appointment with your vet for the booster 2-4 weeks after initial vaccine.

Los Angeles County Animal Care & Control Dog and Cat Spay and Neuter Voucher Program is Available to West Hollywood Residents

The Los Angeles County Animal Care & Control Department has also opened eligibility for the Dog and Cat Spay/Neuter Voucher Program to West Hollywood residents. More information, voucher values, and the voucher application is available in PDF format on the County website. Los Angeles County Code §10.20.350 requires all residents of unincorporated areas in Los Angeles County (this includes West Hollywood) to have their dogs and cats older than four months of age spayed or neutered.

For more information about the voucher program email [email protected] or call (562) 345-0321.

For additional information, please contact Dan Mick, the City of West Hollywood’s Code Compliance Supervisor, at (323) 848-6882 or at [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

City of West Hollywood Continues ‘Summer Sounds 2022’
Free Outdoor Sunday Evening Concert Series Continues

The City of West Hollywood is continuing its 2022 Summer Sounds Free Outdoor Concert Series, which takes place on select Sunday evenings at 5 p.m. through Sunday, August 21, 2022 at Plummer Park, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard, in West Hollywood. 

The next concert in the series will feature the all-female salsa band, Las Chikas on Sunday, July 3, 2022 at 5 p.m. Las Chikas is comprised of some of the most talented female musicians in Los Angeles. Salsa never looked so good in Southern California; a melting pot of cultures and ethnicity come together to give birth to a multicultural female band that sets the stage on fire! Las Chikas has performed in several Southern California cities and special events, including the San Jose Jazz Festival, for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Anaheim Angels, the Los Angeles Latin Jazz Music Festival, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

ARKAI will perform on Sunday, July 17, 2022 at 5 p.m. ARKAI’s genre-bending music fuses classical virtuosity with contemporary technology, forging new possibilities for what a violin and cello can be. Winners of the 2021 Astral Artists National Auditions, their past engagements have included performances at The MET Breuer, Rockwood Music Hall, Juilliard School, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and the 92nd Street Y. Letters from COVID, their electronic debut composition, was featured at [email protected] for a global audience of more than 30,000 people from 182 countries. ARKAI is currently creating its debut album, Aurora, in collaboration with seven-time Grammy-nominated producer Joel Hamilton.

Ella Luna performs on Sunday, August 7, 2022 at 5 p.m. Ella Luna is a singer/songwriter from Denver, Colorado, combining intimate vocals, raw instruments, and intricate lyrical work. Denver Thread says, “Ella Luna pairs jazz and dream pop with a sincere & smooth indie lyrical and musical style that recalls up and coming artists like Lucy Dacus or Lindsey Jordan on first blush. But then seasons that mix with vocals that lilt with tired tears just underneath her tongue at times, and with the vigorous power of an Amy Winehouse or a Norah Jones at others, but she always sounds real, and herself.”

The City of West Hollywood’s Summer Sounds Concert Series finale on Sunday, August 21, 2022 at 5 p.m. will feature M&M The Afro-Persian Experience (Mehdi Bagheri & Marcus L. Miller). The Afro-Persian Experience is a duo featuring Persian kamancheh master Mehdi Bagheri and artist/percussionist Marcus L. Miller. Based in Southern California, the group was formed in 2016. The music consists of all original compositions created by Bagheri & Miller. It is deeply rooted in the traditions of ancient Persia and Africa. Their unique sound results from the natural contrast of their individual musical styles as well as the expression of their passion for the music. This concert is presented in partnership with Grand Performances supported by an arts grant from the City of West Hollywood.

The City of West Hollywood’s 2022 Summer Sounds Free Outdoor Concert Series is organized by the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division. Summer Sounds concerts are free to attend; RSVPs are not required but are requested. Seating will not be available. Attendees are encouraged to bring picnics, picnic blankets, and low chairs. Masks and social distancing recommended.

For additional information about the performers and to view the series, please visit www.weho.org/summersounds

For more information about WeHo Sounds please contact Joy Tribble, the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Technician, at (323) 848-6360 or at [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

City of West Hollywood to Host Free Document Shredding and Electronic Waste Collection Event

The City of West Hollywood will host a free document and electronic waste collection event for residents and businesses. Community members are invited to bring confidential files and unwanted electronics, including hard drives, for shredding and recycling.

E-waste will be handled by certified electronics recycler, Homeboy Recycling, in a way that protects the planet and keeps data safe while creating jobs for people in the region facing serious barriers to employment. All electronics are accepted, with the exception of hazardous materials, large appliances, thermostats, light bulbs, and batteries. 

Event will Take Place on Saturday, July 23 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Employee Parking Lot

The free event will take place on Saturday, July 23, 2022, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center employee parking lot, located at 355 N. San Vicente Boulevard. This is a drive-through event. All e-waste and documents must be in the trunk prior to arrival.

This event will adhere to COVID-19 guidelines from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and California Department of Public Health. Masks are recommended, but not required.

For more information, please contact Matt Magener, Environmental Programs Coordinator, City of West Hollywood, at (323) 848-6894 or at [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

City of West Hollywood to Host Pride Pickleball Tournament at Plummer Park

The City of West Hollywood is bringing June Pride season into July! In collaboration with Tennacity, the City will host its first Pride Pickleball Tournament at Plummer Park, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard. The Tournament will take place on Saturday, July 9, 2022 and Sunday, July 10, 2022 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. The Plummer Park pickleball courts are located at the north end of Plummer Park, closest to Fountain Avenue.

Divisions include beginner, intermediate, and advanced. All categories of men’s and women’s doubles will be played on Saturday, July 9. All categories of men’s and women’s singles, and mixed doubles will be played on Sunday, July 10. Specially designed Pride medals will be awarded to the top three finishers in each division. All registered players will receive a gift bag with various Pride inspired items. Registration is $35 for singles, and $20 per person for doubles. To register and for more information, call (323) 848-6546 or send an email to [email protected]

Pickleball courts are now a feature of two public parks in the City of West Hollywood:

1) Plummer Park, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard, has five newly resurfaced and lighted pickleball courts and a small pro-shop where pickleball and tennis-related services are offered to the community; and

2) West Hollywood Park, located 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard, has six newly resurfaced and lighted pickleball courts situated on the rooftop of its West Hollywood Park Five-Story Parking Structure. Pickleball play and programming will be coming soon to this location.

Pickleball court reservations are available and can be made in advance. Prices are $8/hour (or $4/half hour) for Plummer Park and reservations can be made utilizing the playbypoint app or at www.playbypoint.com under the name Tennacity at West Hollywood: Plummer Park. Residents may reserve courts up to seven days in advance; non-residents may reserve up to five days in advance.

For more information about the City’s pickleball and tennis courts, please visit www.weho.org/community/recreation-services/pickleball and www.weho.org/community/recreation-services/tennis.

For additional information, please contact Michael Gasca, City of West Hollywood Recreation Coordinator, at (323) 848-6546 or at [email protected].

For more information about Tennacity and pickleball and tennis programming, please visit www.tennacity.com or email [email protected]

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

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Los Angeles County

New Los Angeles County Department aims to transform youth justice

Thousands of kids are arrested in LA County annually- evidence shows their lives are disrupted by even 1st time contact with justice system

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Youth offenders (Image courtesy of The Children’s Defense Fund)

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County, guided by its Board of Supervisors’ commitment to reimagining the juvenile justice system, took a major leap forward this week as a new Department of Youth Development (DYD) officially launched.

While the nation as a whole has been shifting toward a model of rehabilitation versus punishment, the County’s new Department of Youth Development goes a step further, with a goal of transforming the way County systems treat youth and invest in their development, well-being and safety.

“Youth justice is not simply about making sure we provide equitable alternatives to arrest and system involvement,” said Vincent Holmes, the Department of Youth Development’s newly named Interim Director. “It also means ensuring that every young person in LA County has access to youth development and care-first opportunities they deserve.”

“Evidence shows that their lives are disrupted by even first-time contact with the justice system and that negative outcomes increase exponentially with deeper system involvement”

While previous reforms and interventions have reduced the number of young people involved in the justice system, with fewer than 450 youth in County juvenile halls and camps, thousands of children are arrested or cited in LA County annually. Evidence shows that their lives are disrupted by even first-time contact with the justice system and that negative outcomes increase exponentially with deeper system involvement.

Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, who chairs the Board of Supervisors, sees the Department of Youth Development’s mission as a necessary step towards improving community safety and equity in LA County.

“This department will further extend the County’s ability to meaningfully invest in and improve the lives of young people who are counting on us to do so. Our Black and Brown youth continue to be disproportionately represented in our justice system that isn’t truly serving them. The Department of Youth Development is one of the tools we have to change this,” she said. “Intentionally working with youth and equipping them with the skills and resources to succeed is how we fulfill our goal as a County of shifting from failed systems built solely on punishment to proven solutions for youth development that strengthen the overall vitality and safety of our communities.”

Black youth and other youth of color are increasingly and disproportionately impacted by the negative effects of justice system contact at every stage.

Roughly 80% of arrests or citations of minors are for alleged “status offenses,” like violating curfew, or involve alleged non-serious, non-violent misdemeanors or felonies that are legally eligible for referral to community-based diversion and development services that better support positive outcomes for both youth and community safety.

The Department of Youth Development will centralize the County’s response to this miscarriage of justice, guided by research on equity and adolescent development and in collaboration with young people with lived experience and other County partners.

“We say our youth are our future, so we must protect their future, in collaboration with their family and support systems, in a care-first environment that prioritizes their well-being and supports their growth instead of penalizing them as they progress into adulthood,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “The establishment of the County’s Department of Youth Development is the commitment we are making to not only their future but also the County’s future.”

Holmes brings over 32 years of public sector experience with the County and the Los Angeles Superior Court, including extensive work in building innovative programs serving justice-involved populations through the ATI Incubation Academy, Measure J/Care First Community Investment (CFCI), the Gang Violence Reduction Project and My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, among others. Since 2017, he has helped advance the collaborative planning and design of the County’s innovative Youth Diversion and Development model upon which the new Department of Youth Development will build. He has built relationships with justice system partners and is well respected by local leaders, community and youth who will be needed to support the department’s transformative youth development agenda.

As it launches, the Department of Youth Development also has the advantage of leveraging work by the County’s Youth Justice Reimagined initiative. Holmes is excited to continue to work alongside youth advocates with lived experience who helped inspire the Board’s bold vision of youth justice.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said the work is innovative, but well grounded in research.

“Historically, youth justice systems have emphasized incarceration which often means just giving up on youth instead of investing in prevention, rehabilitation and second chances.  The County is following the successful example of other local jurisdictions like San Francisco, Houston and St. Paul in being bold and innovative—thinking outside the box in creating and reforming youth justice,” she said. “The Department of Youth Development is a great step forward for reimagining LA County’s criminal justice system because we know and data shows that we have more success in helping young people thrive as well as improving community safety by providing rehabilitative, health-focused and care-first programming.”

Offering early and equitable access to resources that assist young people as they grow and develop can change the trajectory of their lives. Expanding youth diversion and development programs to continue to equitably reduce youth justice system involvement, building additional capacity for youth centers and youth development, and supporting credible messengers in schools and other youth-serving systems are just some of the key elements of the Department of Youth Development’s initial vision.

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, 2022

“Supporting our youth means reaching them with resources to help them thrive before they are ever at risk of coming in contact with the justice system, from mental health services to good-paying jobs when the time is right,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “With this new department, we’re stepping up our commitment to make those resources available to all young people, in every neighborhood.”

Supervisor Kathryn Barger emphasized the importance of other County departments’ support of this work.

“We must help the youth in our system realize their full potential so they can be successfully integrated into our workplaces and communities,” she said. “In order to holistically meet the needs of justice-involved youth, all our County departments must work together to equip them with every tool to succeed physically, academically, mentally and emotionally. As Dr. D’Artagnan Scorza, our Executive Director of Racial Equity, has emphasized time and time again, it’s crucial that we engage with our youth as soon as possible and set them on the best path forward to thrive.”

This historic moment is possible thanks to the incredible vision and tireless efforts of a wide range of partners, including youth leaders like Jacob Jackson.

“It is important to center youth who are impacted through every portion of the process, making young people’s health and wellness the department’s core values,” Jackson said. “Don’t be scared of change. The Department of Youth Development should be the home and support that some folks currently lack whether they’re homeless, in foster care, incarcerated or system impacted.”

Moving forward, the Department of Youth Development hopes to engage an even larger group of young people in shaping the strategy of the department through community convenings and other interactions.

Anyone interested in following the Department of Youth Development’s life-changing work can sign up for updates at dyd.lacounty.gov

Links to additional resources:
Click here for more about DYD’s history and here for the Youth Justice Reimagined report.

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California

California expands culturally competent Program for LGBTQ Foster Youth

The services will be designed to address the barriers LGBTQ youth encounter in their interpersonal, familial, and community relationships

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LGBTQ+ youth (Los Angeles Blade file photo)

LOS ANGELES — Governor Gavin Newsom’s final 2022-23 fiscal year budget included $5 million for LGBTQ+ foster youth programming. The pilot program will require the California Department of Social Services (DPSS) to improve the child welfare system by providing affirming services designed specifically for LGBTQ+ foster youth.

The services will be designed to address the barriers LGBTQ+ youth encounter in their interpersonal, familial, and community relationships due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGIE).

“We are delighted that Governor Newsom has taken this important step towards creating an equitable foster care system for California’s LGBTQ+ youth,” said LA LGBT Center CEO, Joe Hollendoner. “This funding will improve capacity, training, and culturally responsive care that addresses the unique needs of—and offers meaningful protections for—LGBTQ+ youth. The Center has been a pioneer in LGBTQ+-inclusive programming for youth, and we will continue working with our partners to help protect LGBTQ+ foster youth from hate, violence, and discrimination. Every youth deserves a loving home with a caring family and culturally affirming support systems.”

LGBTQ foster youth are over-represented in the foster care system, and youth of color are disproportionately represented among those LGBTQ+ youth. A Williams Institute report finds that one in five foster care youth are LGBTQ+; of those youth, 90% are youth of color. Additionally, LGBTQ+ youth are twice as likely as non-LGBTQ+ youth to end up in a congregate care setting.

LGBTQ+ foster youth also face greater challenges when in custody with non-affirming foster families as they are disproportionately at risk for physical, sexual, emotional, and mental abuse. On average, 56% of LGBTQ+ youth report that they have felt safer living on the streets than with foster parents. For these reasons and others, robust continuums of care that are culturally responsive for supporting LGBTQ+ youth are critical.

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