Connect with us

News

‘Conversion therapy’ resolution passes California Assembly with evangelical support

Published

on

Out Assemblymember Evan Low is trying something different. He wants to not only make law but also eradicate the harmful anti-LGBT stigma at the core of so-called “conversion therapy” through persuasion. On June 24, at the end of Pride Month and just days before the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, he took a firm step toward that goal when his ACR 99 passed the California Assembly on a voice vote, with support from moderate Republican Chad Mayes, son of a pastor and graduate of Liberty University.

The non-binding resolution calls on all Californians, especially religious leaders and educators, to recognize the harm done to LGBT individuals who are forced to undergo the dangerous and disavowed practice of “conversion therapy” to try to change their immutable sexual orientation and gender identity into heterosexual.

But this is not the outcome LGBT politicos expected after he pulled a bill last year that was expected to have national repercussions and promised to produce stronger legislation. Low’s AB 2943 would have expanded the current California ban on “conversion therapy” by declaring it a fraudulent practice under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act  and extending certain consumer protections to individuals harmed by efforts to “change” or “repair” their sexual orientation or gender identity.

AB 2943 built on the LGBT youth protection bill authored by then State Sen. Ted Lieu to prevent state-licensed therapists from practicing “psychological child abuse” on minors under 18. Then Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill in Sept. 2012, telling the San Francisco Chronicle: “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.” Lieu’s bill became a national model with 18 states following with similar legislation.

Low, then chair of the California LGBT Legislative Caucus, spoke for many in presenting his case before the Assembly last year. “This is a very personal issue to me,” Low said. “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 Assembly also heard from survivors such as Ryan Kendall. “As a young teen, the anti-gay practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ destroyed my life and tore apart my family,” he said. “In order to stop the therapy that misled my parents into believing that I could somehow be made straight, I was forced to run away from home, surrender myself to the local department of human services, and legally separate myself from my family. At the age of 16, I had lost everything. My family and my faith had rejected me, and the damaging messages of ‘conversion therapy,’ coupled with this rejection, drove me to the brink of suicide.”

Low’s AB 2943 passed both chambers and was expected to be signed into law by Brown, despite a swarm of controversy. In fact, the conservative Federalist.com called fact-checking website Snopes a “sneaky liar”  after Snopes declared “False” some religious claims that the bill would make the sale of Bibles illegal.

That didn’t stop conservative media from spreading the inaccuracies.

This is essentially criminalizing religious beliefs. And I don’t mean to speak in hyperbole here, but if this bill were to pass, would this prohibit the sale of the Bible, that teaches these things about sexual morality?” One America News Network’s “Tipping Point” host Liz Wheeler asked Republican Assemblymember Travis Allen, a gubernatorial candidate (italization is by Snopes).

Well, literally, according to how this law is written, yes, it would. This is, you know, PC culture, politically correct culture, gone horribly awry. This is really directly hitting at our First Amendment rights as American citizens. Now the Democrat legislators in this building, right behind me, the California state legislature, they want to tell you how to think, what sort of books that you can read, write and purchase,” Allen replied.

Many were shocked when Low pulled the bill. But in building support for AB 2943, he saw something else happening. Traditionally anti-LGBT religious told him that while they still considered homosexuality to be a sin, they did not agree with “reparative therapy.”

“I was heartened by the conversations,” Low told the Los Angeles Blade last September. “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.”

After Low took a year to listen and dialogue, he introduced ACR-99. “We have a long road in the fight to remove LGBTQ stigma and discrimination from our culture,” he said. “While we live in one of the most politically divided times in living memory, ACR 99 demonstrates that it is possible for two seemingly divergent, but truly overlapping, communities to work together to address a controversial subject. We will continue to work together to build bridges and strengthen alliances in our fight against the harmful practice of conversion therapy.”

Some of his most unlikely support came from religious educators who were keenly aware of the depression and suicidal thinking of LGBT students.

“Believing that every person is created in the image of God, we support this call to equitable treatment of all people. We are glad to affirm your desire to see people as they are, protecting their autonomy, dignity, and to treat them with the respect that is due them as God’s creation. The call to compassion and caring treatment is consistent with our deep desire to reflect Christ in all we do,” Kevin Mannoia, Chaplain at Azusa Pacific University and former President of the National Association of Evangelicals, said in a press release after the resolution passed the Judiciary Committee.

Low says meeting with evangelical leaders was like “going into the lion’s den.” But then he had an epiphany, finding “such a different contrast to what I had anticipated the reception would be when I met with them,” especially the expected hate.

“In fact,” Low tells the Los Angeles Blade, when I asked them point blank, ‘Do you believe in conversion therapy? And do you believe that it works?’—the answer was ‘No.’ And I said, ‘Do you agree that it’s harmful?’ And they said ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘Well, why are you opposing this legislation, because it would appear, then, that we would be in alignment?’ And they said, ‘The unintended consequences for us is overreaching and too broad and could we have greater conversations collectively about that?’”

Low decided to introduce a resolution first, before bring back a stronger version of AB 2943. “I think progress takes time. Remember that saying: ‘if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.’ I think that this hopefully will be a transformative effort in which the evangelical community and the LGBT community can finally find something to which we can be in lockstep, hand-in-hand, in supporting collectively,” though he concedes that on individual issues such as marriage equality “we are on opposite sides.”

But, Low says, “on a fundamental issue like ‘conversion therapy,’ this, I believe, is historic. We have evangelical leaders putting their name to this resolution, coming to present in the Assembly Judiciary Committee, to stand by the side of the LGBT community in partnership in denouncing ‘conversion therapy’ as a harmful practice. And that is the first step for us. Then to build off of that relationship to hopefully look further as to how we can continue to advance the issues of inclusion, love, and respect for all people.”

But Low notes that there was some prodding that preceded evangelicals denouncing “conversion therapy” through ACR 99. Two years ago, Low and then Sen. Ricardo Lara introduced a bill that would strip Cal Grant funding of student financial aid from these religious colleges like Loyola, Azusa that discriminated against LGBT students. “Colleges in the state of California were kicking out and banning students based on sexual orientation and yet they receive public taxpayer dollars,” Low says. “That was my first entrée into sort of ‘battling’ evangelical and religious leaders with respect to LGBT rights and that of the religious community.”

But as he was trying to build a coalition of support for his bill, Low established “a number of genuine warm relationships” with some evangelicals who were also interested in finding a common ground.

“So that’s why I felt that, okay, we’re talking about conversion therapy, but this is much broader,” Low says. “The symbolism and the rhetoric and the narrative behind this is transformational. In other words, what can we now do from this resolution in which we have put ourselves on the front lines of this, and what can be build off of this? So yes, we will hope to then figure out what we can then codify and change into law with respect to strengthening our laws against conversion therapy.”

After that, Low says the coalition will look at “other things that we can do to help build bridges with the religious community on a number of things affecting our LGBT community.”

“I never thought that I actually personally would be in this position in which I’m actually thanking and standing hand-in-hand with evangelical and religious leaders,” Low says, the same leaders he’d see time after time on the opposite side. “Dialogue is so important. That’s what I think is very transformational.”

The Williams Institute at UCLA posted an update of their January 2018 report on “conversion therapy” estimates noting that 698,000 LGBTQ adults (ages 18-59) in the United States were subjected to “conversion therapy,” of which 350,000 LGBTQ adults reporting that they were subjected to the practice as adolescents.

The report notes that 16,000 LGBTQ youth (ages 13-17) will receive “conversion therapy” from a licensed health care professional before they reach the age of 18 in the 32 states that currently do not ban the practice. An estimated 57,000 youth (ages 13-17) across all states will receive “conversion therapy” from religious or spiritual advisors before they reach the age of 18.

However, an estimated 10,000 LGBTQ youth (ages 13-17) live in states that ban “conversion therapy” and thus have been protected.

A number of prominent professional health associations—including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among others—have issued public statements opposing the use of the therapy, saying it is harmful and ineffective.

The American Psychological Association previously released a finding stating that efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity are associated with poor mental health and tend to increase the risk of suicide, especially in LGBTQ youth.

ACR 99 now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee and then to the full Senate, where it is expected to pass. The resolution does not require Gov. Newsom’s signature. – Staff reports contributed to this story.

The photo of Assemblymember Evan Low testifying is courtesy Low’s office. 

 

Continue Reading
Advertisement

California

Newsom expands drought emergency urges Californians to conserve water

California is experiencing its worst drought since the late 1800s. August 2021 was driest & hottest August on record since reporting began

Published

on

California Governor Gavin Newsom (Blade file photo credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – Following the second driest year on record and with near record low storage in California’s largest reservoirs, Governor Gavin Newsom today issued a proclamation extending the drought emergency statewide and further urging Californians to step up their water conservation efforts as the western U.S. faces a potential third dry year.

Bolstering conservation efforts, the proclamation enables the State Water Resources Control Board to ban wasteful water practices, including the use of potable water for washing sidewalks and driveways. The Governor issued an executive order in July calling on Californians to voluntarily reduce water use by 15 percent compared to 2020 to protect water reserves and complement local conservation mandates. The Governor’s action today comes as the Board reports that in August, California reduced urban water use by 5 percent compared to 2020.

“As the western U.S. faces a potential third year of drought, it’s critical that Californians across the state redouble our efforts to save water in every way possible,” said Governor Newsom. “With historic investments and urgent action, the state is moving to protect our communities, businesses and ecosystems from the immediate impacts of the drought emergency while building long-term water resilience to help the state meet the challenge of climate change impacts making droughts more common and more severe.”

The proclamation notes that the State Water Resources Control Board may adopt emergency regulations to prohibit wasting water, such as hosing down sidewalks or driveways, allowing drinking water to flood gutters or streets, or washing a car without a shut-off nozzle.

The proclamation adds the eight counties not previously included in the drought state of emergency: Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco and Ventura. In addition, the proclamation requires local water suppliers to implement water shortage contingency plans that are responsive to local conditions and prepare for the possibility of a third dry year.

Expanding the Save Our Water initiative, a critical resource during the last drought, California has launched robust water conservation public education campaigns in partnership with stakeholders, including public water agencies. Statewide per capita residential water use declined 21 percent between 2013 and 2016 and as of 2020, the urban sector is using approximately 16 percent less on average statewide than in 2013. The Administration will continue to monitor the evolving drought conditions and evaluate all tools available to respond in real-time. 

California is experiencing its worst drought since the late 1800s, as measured by both lack of precipitation and high temperatures. August 2021 was the driest and hottest August on record since reporting began and the water year that ended last month was the second driest on record. Today’s proclamation authorizes the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to provide assistance and funding under the California Disaster Assistance Act to support the emergency response and delivery of drinking water and water for public health and safety.

The Governor’s California Comeback Plan invests $5.2 billion over three years to support immediate drought response and long-term water resilience, including $815 million for emergency drought relief projects to secure and expand water supplies, drought contingency planning and multi-benefit land repurposing projects; support for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, with a focus on small and disadvantaged communities; Sustainable Groundwater Management Act implementation to improve water supply security and quality; and projects to support wildlife and habitat restoration efforts, among other nature-based solutions.

A copy of today’s proclamation can be found here.

More information on the state’s response to the drought and informational resources available to the public are available at https://drought.ca.gov/

Continue Reading

News Analysis

Right-wing media blame trans-inclusive policy for Virginia sexual assault

[…] In reality, the Loudoun County Schools policy was not in effect when the reported sexual assault occurred

Published

on

Graphic via Media Matters for America

By Brennan Suen | WASHINGTON – Right-wing media have seized on a report of a sexual assault at a high school in Loudoun County, Virginia, to attack trans-inclusive bathrooms, often suggesting that a policy in the school district opened the door to predators in girls’ bathrooms. In reality, the policy was not in effect when the reported sexual assault occurred, and it is always illegal to assault or harass someone.

On October 11, right-wing outlet The Daily Wire published a story about the reported assault and interviewed Scott Smith, the victim’s father, who was arrested at a June 22 school board meeting after an altercation. 

In the article, Smith seemed to acknowledge that the suspect might not have been affected by the district’s trans-inclusive policy, which allows students to use facilities that align with their gender identity. He said, “The person that attacked our daughter is apparently bisexual and occasionally wears dresses because he likes them. So this kid is technically not what the school board was fighting about.” However, he then seemed to blame the policy, saying, “The point is kids are using it as an advantage to get into the bathrooms.”

However, the policy was passed by the school board on August 11 — months after May 28, when the assault was reported to have taken place, making it impossible for the suspect to have used the protections “as an advantage to get into the bathrooms.” 

The myth that trans-inclusive bathrooms allow predators to attack women has been repeatedly debunked; additionally, assaults and harassment are already illegal regardless of whether bathrooms allow trans people. In fact, the suspect was later charged in a second assault in Loudoun County that was reported to have taken place in “an empty classroom.” The suspect has now been arrested and detained in juvenile detention.

The Washington Post has noted that authorities have not confirmed the gender identity of the suspect or that they were wearing a dress but identified as a boy. It also noted that “at the time of the alleged assault involving [Smith’s] daughter, that rule was not in effect”:

The parents she is representing have spoken out this week, often in interviews with conservative news outlets, to assert that the charged youth is “gender fluid” and that the assault took place in a girls bathroom. Those details have not been confirmed by authorities. The parents have also denounced a policy put in place by Loudoun’s school board in August that lets students use bathrooms matching their gender identities. At the time of the alleged assault involving their daughter, that rule was not in effect.

Nevertheless, right-wing media have quickly spread the story, frequently citing the alleged gender identity of the suspect and the school’s trans-inclusive policy — which they often falsely suggested was to blame for the reported assault. 

For instance, the Heritage Foundation’s outlet, The Daily Signal, published a report that quoted anti-trans advocate Lauren Adams, who said, “Assaults like these are the natural result of transgender bathroom policies, which allow boys to freely enter girls’ spaces and erode boundaries.” 

In an op-ed in The Washington Times, columnist Robert Knight suggested Virginia may once again give us an “American Revolution,” in part due to backlash over the case. Knight lied that the suspect “was allowed into the girl’s room because of the idiotic transgender mandate.”

The Daily Mail wrote, “Smith says the boy took advantage of the school’s trans policies to get into the girls’ bathrooms and assault her.” 

The New York Post also repeated this claim, writing: “Smith told the Daily Wire that his daughter was attacked at Stone Bridge High School on May 28 by a boy ‘wearing in a skirt’ who took advantage of transgender rules ‘to get into the bathrooms.’”

Unfortunately, right-wing media have once again perpetuated the debunked bathroom predator myth and ignored the facts in order to attack trans people.

********************

Brennan Suen is the LGBTQ program director at Media Matters, where he has worked since July 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, and he formerly interned at the Human Rights Campaign and SKDKnickerbocker.

The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

Continue Reading

U.S. Federal Courts

U.S. Justice Dept. seeks Supreme Court review on Texas abortion ban

“Women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution”

Published

on

U.S. Supreme Court (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Justice Department lawyers filed an emergency appeal Monday with the U.S. Supreme Court after the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals enjoined a lower court ruling that blocked enforcement of the Texas anti-abortion law.

The Justice Department is seeking the high court’s review in order to block the law while legal litigation continues over the controversial law that bans abortion after six weeks, a point at which many women are unaware they are pregnant.

The Biden administration wants to block the law’s enforcement while a lower Federal court in Austin, Texas, addresses the underlying constitutional questions raised in the challenge to the law.

Last week in a late night filing the Justice Department petitioned the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse its ruling that allows the controversial Texas abortion ban law known as SB8 temporarily reinstated.

In its brief Justice Department attorneys argued that if the law is upheld, states could violate any right provided they left enforcement up to private citizens and not the state itself. “If Texas’s scheme is permissible, no constitutional right is safe from state-sanctioned sabotage of this kind,” the Justice Department stated then added, “A stay would prolong [the law’s] substantial harm to the United States’ sovereign interests and would disserve the public interest.”

In a late Friday evening ruling two weeks ago, a three Judge panel of the U. S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily overturned an injunction issued by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman that had blocked Senate Bill 8, the Texas abortion ban, from being enforced.

A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit released a one-paragraph order last Thursday allowing the law to remain in effect after the appeal by the Justice Department.

In its appeal the lawyers for the Justice Department argued that the law “is plainly unconstitutional under this court’s precedents […] And Texas’s insistence that no party can bring a suit challenging S.B. 8 amounts to an assertion that the federal courts are powerless to halt the state’s ongoing nullification of federal law. That proposition is as breathtaking as it is dangerous.”

Because the case was filed on the high court’s emergency docket, the justices are likely to move swiftly legal experts say – possibly within a matter of days – to take it up. 

Writing in his 113 page order, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman, who blocked enforcement of S.B. 8 labeled the law an “offensive deprivation of such an important right” referring to women’s reproductive rights then added;

“A person’s right under the Constitution to choose to obtain an abortion prior to fetal viability is well established,” Pitman wrote. “Fully aware that depriving its citizens of this right by direct state action would be flagrantly unconstitutional, (Texas) contrived an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme to do just that.”

Pitman also took aim at the provisions in the law that allows any private individual to sue abortion providers or those who aid and abet procedures that violate the law. Successful litigants can collect $10,000 under the law’s provisions.

“The State created a private cause of action by which individuals with no personal interest in, or connection to, a person seeking an abortion would be incentivized to use the state’s judicial system, judges, and court officials to interfere with the right to an abortion,” he wrote.

Pitman then called out the Republican lawmakers who drafted the measure: “There can be no doubt that S.B. 8 was a deliberate attempt by lawmakers, notably its author, State Senator Bryan Hughes, to “find another way” around resistance to enforcement of laws criminalizing abortion.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular