California conservatives have hit back at a proposed bill that would impose harsher sentences on people performing gay ‘cure’ therapy, saying that the bill would lead to a ban on the Bible.
On April 18 the California Assembly voted to support harsher penalties for those performing gay conversion therapy in the state, opting to treat the treatment as a form of consumer fraud.
Bill AB-2943, which was greenlit by state lawmakers on Wednesday, would build on the existing policies to introduce a possible conviction under state law for gay ‘cure’ practitioners.
Performing gay cure therapy on minors is already is illegal in ten US states and counting, as well as Switzerland, Malta, Taiwan, two Canadian provinces, and the Australian state of Victoria.
If enacted, California would join Illinois and Connecticut in explicitly making ‘conversion therapy’ subject to consumer protection laws.
Gay ‘cure’ therapy has been widely debunked by multiple major medical organisations around the world.
Travis Allen — a member of the California Assembly and Republican candidate for Governor — recently hit back at the state’s proposed bill, explicitly saying that it would ban the Bible in California.
In an interview with conservative cable news channel One America News, Allen said: “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.”
The interview quickly went viral, prompting conspiracy-debunking website Snopes to challenge the idea, rating it as “false.”
Despite the lack of evidence for the claim that the anti-gay cure therapy bill would ban any religious texts, many other conservatives have hit out at the bill.
Anti-LGBT law group Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been at the forefront of the evangelical fight against gay sex, issued a memo March 8 stating that the bill was an attack on free speech.
The memo reads: “At its core, AB 2943 outlaws speech, whether offered by a licensed counsellor, 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.”
Although the memo did not specifically say that the Bible itself would be threatened, it did state that bookshops would be banned from selling texts that “challenged gender identity ideology.”
“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,” said the Alliance Defending Freedom memo.
There is no part of the bill that would prevent the sale of religious texts or other books.
The bill, submitted by out lawmaker Evan Low, would amend the section of the existing Civil Code section on fraud which deals with “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” – such as financial misrepresentation, false commercial claims and deliberate misselling to consumers – to include a prohibition on “advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual”.
On April 19 the bill passed by a vote of 50 to 18 and will now head to the California State Senate for consideration.
Evan Low, Chair of the LGBT Legislative Caucus, said: “Study after study has shown that ‘conversion therapy’ is ineffective, damaging, and counterproductive.
“It is our duty to protect Californians from such deceptive practices that will expose them to physical and emotional harm.”
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HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse said: “Today, California legislators rightfully declared that so-called ‘conversion therapy’ is a complete sham and those who offer this deceptive and dangerous practice must be held accountable.
“California was the first state to protect minors from being subjected to conversion therapy by state-licensed health care providers, and today’s vote is an important step to protecting all LGBTQ people from this debunked practice.
“We thank the assembly members who voted in favour of AB 2943 and urge the Senate to swiftly advance the bill to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.”
Connecticut, California, Nevada, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Washington all have laws protecting youth from gay ‘cure’ therapy, while bills are pending in a string of other states.