On Thursday, the CA Assembly passed Bill 2943, a bill that assemblyman Evan Low claims is directed at so-called conversion therapy - therapy designed to change the sexual orientation of those in the LGBTQ community.
Low states that this bill is not designed to infringe upon religious freedoms or the ability to talk about or sell books on the subject. That the bill instead is designed to prevent the advertisement of such therapies as services and that such therapy claims are fraudulent. The bill claims that contemporary science recognizes that being a part of the LGBTQ community is "part of the natural spectrum of human identity and is not a disease, disorder, or illness.", but offers no scientific data for this claim. The bill then outlines a series of studies on conversion therapy that show the dangers of such therapy. While the debate on conversion therapy is one that is needed - even within the church - there is another issue at play in the bill.
When reading what the bill considers to be Sexual Orientation Change Efforts, we are given the following:
Contrast this with what the bill says is NOT a Sexual Orientation Change Effort:
i) (1) “Sexual orientation change efforts” means any practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.
(2) “Sexual orientation change efforts” does not include psychotherapies that: (A) provide acceptance, support, and understanding of clients or the facilitation of clients’ coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices; and (B) do not seek to change sexual orientation.
This is troubling as the bill clearly denotes a difference between "practices" and "psychotherapies" on Sexual Orientation Change efforts. This could be used to include communicative efforts in Christian sermons, publications, or even individual conversations between a pastor and a congregant. A group could sue a Christian college using this law on the grounds that courses there teach students how to change sexual orientation by means of counseling or even by the study of the Bible itself. If this seems unlikely, it should be pointed out that the Roe v Wade decision was based on the concept of a citizen's "right to privacy" that SCOTUS rules is inferred by the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 14th amendments though the language of these amendments do not even speak on abortion nor were they intended to. If the language of a law is left vague enough, those seeking lawsuits can interpret such vague wording to include their grievances. So it would not be so unbelievable that HB2943 could be used for such purposes.
While the Bible itself may come out unscathed by such a law, Christian books that speak on Gay or Transgenders and how God can change a person's life would line up under the broad spectrum in this final statement of the bill.
This bill still needs to be approved by the California senate before going to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature. It is doubtful it will live very long without a legal challenge, but it is unknown if such a challenge would succeed in defeating the bill or if it would become California law. If it is allowed to stand, then state courts will not only begin to rule on the validity of LGBTQ orientations but would outlaw any attempts to argue against such orientations by circumventing the 1st amendment on the grounds such efforts would be fraudulent. Such a law could then be coming to a state near you.