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California bill banning books, therapy to help unwanted gay attraction stalls amid lawsuit fears

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SACRAMENTO, July 12, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A ban on therapy for unwanted same-sex attractions critics say is broad enough to ban books on overcoming it easily cleared the California Assembly, but will apparently have a tougher time making it through the state Senate.

In April, the Assembly voted 50-14 to pass AB 2943, a bill that forbids minors and adults alike from obtaining “sexual orientation change efforts.” 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.

Senate floor debate on AB 2943 was originally slated to begin last Thursday, but bill sponsor and Democratic Assemblyman Evan Low chose to delay the debate until lawmakers return from summer recess in early August, the Christian Post reports.

According to the Post’s sources, even lawmakers in liberal districts have been deluged with phone calls from constituents opposed to the legislation. Low reportedly wants to discuss how to amend the bill into a more palatable form with representatives of California churches, but the churches have expressed that no amendment would be enough to win their support.

Low has previously denied that the bill’s effects would spread beyond advertising or selling the therapy, but religious Californians are unconvinced.

“At its core, AB 2943 outlaws speech,” Alliance Defending Freedom’s (ADF) legal analysis of the bill reads. “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 further notes that the section of California’s civil code pertaining to “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 United States Constitution expressly forbids laws “abridging the freedom of speech” or “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. The California Constitution declares 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.”

The prospects of a legal challenge are also reportedly a factor, with pro-family advocates arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month affirming California pregnancy centers’ free speech rights further strengthens their case against the bill.

The majority’s affirmation that “speech is not unprotected merely because it is uttered by 'professionals,’” constitutes a “profound shift" in its jurisprudence, according to Pennsylvania Family Institute legal counsel Curtis Schube, potentially dismantling AB 2943’s pretense of cracking down on “fraudulent” professional practices.

Reparative therapy is intensely controversial in large part because it challenges the conventional wisdom that sexual attraction is biologically rooted and unchangeable, with liberals characterizing it as harmful and discredited “junk science.” But many former homosexuals have attested that they benefited from the treatment.

“While recovering in the hospital I had time to reflect. I learned about forgiveness. Lord, I choose you,” Angel Colon, a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, said last month at a rally for ex-homosexuals opposed to the ban. “I want others to have the freedom to experience this. Vote ‘No’ for AB2943.”

“We’re not talking about taking choices off the table,” another rally attendee, a former lesbian who’s now happily married to a man and has two children, said. “We are talking about putting more choices on the table.”

“If AB2943 were enacted as law when I was a young person, I would not have found hope in my life,” a third attendee, ex-gay Drew Berryessa, said.

Ultimately, pro-family advocates credit this latest development to concerned citizens speaking up.

“This has been one of the most controversial bills that we've seen in California in the five years I've been at California Family Council,” the council’s president Jonathan Keller told OneNewsNow. “We've had national organizations — Focus on the Family, Alliance Defending Freedom, American Family Radio — tons of people all across the country that realize this is a blatant attack on the First Amendment, on free speech, on the free exercise of religion.”

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