(LifeSiteNews) – The California Senate voted Thursday to approve the nation’s broadest proposed ban on treatment for overcoming unwanted same-sex attractions.
The vote on Assembly Bill 2943 was 25-11, the Washington Blade reports. The bill forbids minors and adults alike from obtaining “sexual orientation change efforts,” regardless of their wishes. By classifying what leftists pejoratively call “conversion therapy” (also known as reparative therapy) under prohibited “goods,” critics say it would go so far as to ban the sale of books endorsing the practice, as well as other forms of constitutionally-protected speech.
The Assembly voted 50-14 to pass AB 2943 in April, but its Senate vote was delayed until after the summer recess following a deluge of phone calls from disapproving constituents and a fierce public backlash from churches and other religious groups.
The Senate just passed our bill (#AB2943) to classify the sale of conversion therapy services – i.e., psychological torture to “change” an LGBT person to be non-LGBT – as a fraudulent business practice. Thank you Assemblymember @Evan_Low for your leadership. pic.twitter.com/TSbRnkX3EO
— Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) August 16, 2018
Bill sponsor and Democratic Assemblyman Evan Low reportedly considered amending it into a more palatable form, but Courthouse News reports that the state Assembly only needs to vote on procedural amendments before sending the final version to Gov. Jerry Brown.
The California Family Council blasted the “shameful” vote as an attempt to “shut down counselors, schools, and religious organizations who provide resources and services,” and called on its members to “flood” the offices of thirteen Assembly members with phone calls urging them to vote “no” prior to the final vote. The Assembly could vote as early as Monday, August 20, and has until August 31 to pass the final bill.
“This bill does not prohibit the sale of the Bible—that’s an argument that we’ve heard—that’s untrue,” state Sen. Scott Wiener, an openly homosexual Democrat, claimed. “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.”
Conservative legal analysts maintain those possibilities are very real, however.
“At its core, AB 2943 outlaws speech,” concludes the religious liberty group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). “It says that licensed counseling, religious conferences, book sales, and paid speaking engagements could all potentially face legal penalties for promoting ways to reverse unwanted attractions or for expressing traditional Christian teachings on sexuality.”
ADF adds that the section of the state’s civil code on “deceptive acts or practices” expressly “commands that it be ‘liberally construed and applied,’ Cal. Civil Code § 1760, resulting in prohibitions against [sexual orientation change efforts] potentially being applied beyond the confines of a traditional counseling relationship to many other constitutionally protected activities.”
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution forbids laws “abridging the freedom of speech” or “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. The California Constitution affirms that “[e]very person may freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects,” and that “[f]ree exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed.”
As for the bill’s policy ramifications, many former homosexuals such as Angel Colon, Drew Berryessa, and David Pickup attest to reparative therapy’s success in improving their lives, and want Californians currently struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction to have access to the same help overcoming it.
“As California appears poised to pass a draconian bill that directly attacks your religious freedoms, it’s time for you to draw a line in the sand,” Michael Brown declared Friday in an op-ed for the Christian Post. “If the bill passes, you must choose to obey God rather than man. It’s time for civil disobedience.”
Brown predicted that defiantly practicing their faith could get Christians arrested, but that AB 2943 would ultimately be overturned either by the Supreme Court or public disapproval. “Let’s make a solemn determination: No earthly power will stop me from loving my neighbor as myself,” he said.
The Democratic Gov. Brown signed a more limited conversion therapy ban for minors in 2012, and is expected to sign AP 2943. If the bill becomes law, liberty groups plan to challenge it on constitutional grounds.
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