California legislators have introduced a bill to outlaw selling and advertising gay conversion therapy, but critics warn it violates free speech and religious liberty.
The California state assembly passed the bill on Thursday, which would make it illegal to advertise or sell services claiming to change an individual’s sexual orientation from same-sex attraction to heterosexuality, according to The Associated Press. Assemblyman Evan Low, who leads the California LGBT caucus and is gay, authored the bill and claims it does not limit First Amendment rights; but others in the legislature assert it prohibits the free exercise of religion.
“This is a very personal issue to me,” Low said, according to AP. “This notion that we would accept as a legal practice that conversion therapy works is antithetical to my very existence in this body.”
However, the law would likely be overturned in court because it appears to limit free speech and the practices of churches believing homosexuality is not natural, Republican lawmakers said.
“This is a bill that would be overturned by a higher court on the grounds of the First Amendment,” Assemblyman Matthew Harper said, according to AP. The bill specifically violates religious freedom, Harper asserted.
The bill only applies to transactions and business practices and therefore would not affect churches, Low argued. The bill would not outlaw selling books on the subject of conversion therapy and would not prevent individuals from talking about it. It would, however, prevent medical professionals and counselors from offering or performing conversion therapy to their patients, even if their patients request it. Paid conversion therapy would be considered consumer fraud.
“You can still try to pray the gay away if you’d like, but it hasn’t proved to be effective,” Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman said, according to AP. “To advertise that you can change someone’s orientation is simply that — fraudulent.”
California church leaders and conservative groups like the California Family Council have openly opposed the bill and said conversion therapy has actually helped many people who willingly sought it.
“For many people, it has worked; it has made them happy; they say it has saved their lives. So why is the state banning something that people are saying is saving their lives?” CA Family Council’s Greg Burt said, according to CBS Sacramento.
Church leaders rallied on the steps of California’s capitol building to pray in opposition to the bill. The bill is just one example of liberal policy actually damaging the lives of Californians, Capitol Hill Independent Baptist Ministries Pastor Franklin Raddish, who attended the prayer rally, said.
“Actually this liberal leftist legislature and even the governor’s office that are pushing this kind of legislation are the ones [who] are destroying California,” Raddish said, according to CBS Sacramento.
The California Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics expressed support for the bill, though in the case of pediatrics, California already outlaws conversion therapy for minors.