If it passes the California Senate and the governor signs it, Assembly Bill 2943 would make the selling or advertising of gay conversion therapy a violation of the state’s consumer fraud laws. Conservatives are understandably up in arms after it passed the California State Assembly Thursday. Some language in the bill appears to violate the free speech and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment. So California continues to deftly pioneer the war on gender, while simultaneously squashing free speech.
Evan Low, an openly gay member of California’s Assembly proposed the bill, which would make it an “unlawful business practice” to engage in “a transaction intended to result or that results in the sale or lease of goods or services to any consumer” that advertise, offer to engage in, or do engage in “sexual orientation change efforts with an individual.” He gave an emotional testimony of his own experience as a gay man who had tried conversion therapy and had a negative experience.
The bill defines “sexual orientation change efforts” as “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.”
What’s more, as part of its proof that the practice to “convert” or “change” sexual orientations is absurd, unscientific, and even fraudulent, the bill claims “contemporary science recognizes that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is part of the natural spectrum of human identity and is not a disease, disorder, or illness.”
Being transgender is now referred to as a lot of things, but a bill defining it as part of the “natural spectrum of human identity” is not only flat out wrong, but also dangerous. Psychiatrists like Dr. Paul McHugh and men like Walt Heyer have found from professional and personal experience that biology is innate, dysphoria in children often fades over time, and that transitioning is harmful.
Advocates of the bill say it’s just about banning harmful conversion therapy, and therefore should be no cause for concern. But whether conversion therapy is right or wrong isn’t the issue here. Even conservatives have wide-ranging opinions on the topic — some say it’s therapy while others claim it’s as absurd as palm-reading — and certainly not all conservatives or religious people embrace conversion therapy. However, it doesn’t take a political genius to read between the lines that this piece of legislation is a wolf in sheep’s clothing that isn’t just about conversion therapy — it’s about freedom of speech and free exercise of religion.
Consider this: Who are the major proponents of conversion therapy, or at the very least, who typically might encourage someone struggling with dysphoria to try conversion therapy or to reject transitioning? The bill takes aim at religious groups and people who believe same-sex marriage or being transgender contradicts their religious beliefs. Imagine a bill that bans the construction of synagogues but claims it’s not an attack on any particular religious group?
Huffington Post reported: “Several Republican Assembly members were concerned that the bill would infringe upon the right to freedom of religion. They cited the ability of churches to sell books about conversion therapy, for example, or invite a therapist to speak about the subject at a church event. ‘This is a bill that would be overturned by a higher court on the grounds of the First Amendment,’ Assemblyman Matthew Harper, a Republican, said.”
David French, at National Review Online, said, “The state is creating a new religion of sexual libertinism, declaring that religions opposing it aren’t just false but harmful, and then prohibiting contrary religious exercise.”
For lovers of freedom who recognize the authority of the Bill of Rights this is a double whammy: Not only does this bill seek to punish religious organizations or even clinicians and other therapists who help people with gender dysphoria, or even with same-sex attractions, but it then further defines sex and gender, saying bisexuality and transgender is “part of the natural spectrum of human identity” and seeks to punish those who might believe otherwise.
Because California Democrats enjoy a supermajority in both chambers, it’s likely this bill will pass and Gov. Gavin Newsom will sign it, paving a new path forward not to protect consumers from fraud, as the bill posits, but to squash the freedom of speech for (usually religious) people who believe gender is a binary, biological reality. This piece of legislation puts in place two separate but powerful components: a belief system (being transgender is natural) and a punishment for those who would oppose that belief in practice (offering therapy) and intersects them so they create an indelible result: violating free speech and free exercise rights of California residents.