On Thursday, the California state Senate passed Assembly Bill 2943 (A.B. 2943), a bill making any efforts to help people change their sexual orientation or gender identity illegal under laws against fraudulent business practices. LGBT activists have pushed the law in an effort to prevent the much-maligned “conversion therapy” bugbear, but the practical effects of the law would actually hurt LGBT people who seek to question their orientation or identity.
“It’s anti-choice. It’s essentially saying sexual orientation is a one-way street,” Matt Sharp, director of the Center of Legislative Advocacy at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), told PJ Media. He argued that “the real victims of this are LGBT individuals who should always have the freedom to question and explore.” He also called the bill “barbaric” for suggesting that children who temporarily identify as the opposite sex could not seek counseling to detransition.
This is particularly ironic, given the common addition of “Q” for “questioning” to the LGBT acronym.
A.B. 2943 targets “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE), efforts to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2012, the California Assembly passed Senate Bill 1172, which banned mental health professionals from performing SOCE on children under the age of 18, regardless of whether or not children might want SOCE.
That law defined SOCE as “any practices by mental health providers 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.”
A.B. 2943 would extend that ban to prohibit SOCE for anyone, not just children under age 18. It would also prohibit the advertising or sale of SOCE as a service, making advertising SOCE illegal under laws against fraudulent business practices.
A.B. 2943 would amend the Consumer Legal Remedies Act to ban as “unfair or deceptive acts or practices … the sale or lease of goods or services” that promote SOCE. Critics have argued that this bill would enable any Californian to object to any good or service promising freedom from unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria as “fraudulent.” This means the law would effectively ban anti-LGBT books, and perhaps even be used to ban the Bible itself.
The bill’s defenders argue that A.B. 2943 would not ban books. Snopes gave the claim a “false” rating, explaining that Democrat Assemblyman Evan Low, the bill’s lead sponsor, insisted the law would only ban services, not goods. This defense is extremely questionable, however.
“The overall framework of the law still applies to goods and services,” Sharp explained. “That represents its fundamental flaw. You’ve put this idea that any efforts that seek to provide someone with hope and change regarding their sexual orientation are fraudulent goods and services.”
Even if books promising freedom from unwanted same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria were not included in the bill, A.B. 2943 is still problematic. “So, you’ve exempted one kind of speech, but we’re still going to get involved in a conversation between a counselor and client,” Sharp told PJ Media. He noted that counseling conversations are privileged legally.
“California is saying we need to insert ourselves into that private conversation and tell you what you can and cannot talk about,” he explained.
The ADF legislation advocacy director did not shy away from addressing the dark history of conversion therapy efforts. “I absolutely agree that there have been horrific stories of shock therapy and ice baths with the idea that we can force you to change your sexual orientation,” Sharp admitted. “I think those are barbaric.”
Even so, he charged LGBT activists to point to a single example of those practices as ongoing. “Can you actually give us an example of this happening to anyone in the state?” he asked.
Sharp noted that laws prevent such abuse, especially when it comes to children. He added that Christian counselors who help clients deal with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria do not engage in or endorse such practices. “They condemn those practices, and they say the profession has done what it is supposed to do.”
The counseling profession “has stigmatized those practices, declared them unethical, and driven out of business anyone who engaged in them,” the ADF lawyer explained. “The practice has self-regulated. If a counselor engaged in those techniques, they should be banned from practicing.”
As for A.B. 2943, “You’re not writing a bill that even addresses shock therapy.” Sharp pointedly asked, “Why are you hurting religious freedom and speech to eradicate something that the profession and society and law already deal with?” What is really going on here?
The ADF lawyer argued that A.B. 2943 is “an effort to prevent challenges to LGBT ideology in the law.”
“They want to silence the ability of anyone to question their ideology that this is immutable and unchangeable,” Sharp explained. “They are so threatened by the people who haves open up and said, ‘I did change!'”
The ADF lawyer pointed out what SOCE counseling really would look like. “Every counselor will tell you the client is in the driver’s seat. They set their goals and the counselor helps them to achieve what the client wants them to achieve,” he noted.
“What California is now saying is that there are some goals that are off-limits,” Sharp declared. “They are not trying to punish and silence those who are starting to question.”
Sharp described it as “anti-choice” to prevent anyone from seeking counseling for unwanted same-sex attraction, but the circumstances are even worse involving gender dysphoria.
The transgender movement aims to convince young children, “to start them on puberty blockers, deny them from going through the natural process of puberty — whether you believe that God designed it or it’s through evolution. Then the second step is, ‘We’re going to give you hormones that are going to sterilize you.’ Then it’s time to remove body parts and permanently scar you.”
“While you’re still a minor, you can’t buy cigarettes or alcohol, or drive without your parents’ permission, but you’re capable of making the decision that’s going to deprive you of the ability to have children forever?” Sharp asked.
Then A.B. 2943 steps in, and the law prevents you from seeking counseling to question or slow down the process. “It’s barbaric to me to do that, to not let people pause and turn around and make different choices,” Sharp said.
A.B. 2943 does not just make sexual orientation change efforts officially a fraudulent business practice, however. The law also enables any California citizen to bring a case in court against anyone he or she (or ze) thinks is engaging in such “deceptive” practices. This bill is a field day for lawyers, and a tragedy for anyone who values the ability to question LGBT ideology — including people who may struggle with their own LGBT identity.
Under this law, people who suffer with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria would not be able to get counseling to help them. Furthermore, people may indeed “report” as “fraudulent” any goods or services promising victory over unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria.
This can indeed extend to books and even Bibles, for 2 Corinthians 5:17 promises, “For if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.” Given the Bible’s clear stances against same-sex activity and God’s repeated promises to write His law in the hearts of believers (Ezekiel 11:19, Ezekiel 36:26, Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 8:10), the Bible itself could be reported as “fraudulent” for promising the ability to stop sinning.
Perhaps the most perverse, however, is the law’s over broad attack on sexual orientation change efforts. Technically, if a gay man in a committed homosexual relationship goes to a counselor and asks the counselor to help him stay faithful to his same-sex partner and stop feeling attraction for other men, this would violate the law forbidding efforts to “eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”
Sorry, Steve, if you want to be faithful to Adam and stop feeling sexual attraction for Josh, the law forbids me to give you counseling.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Tyler2ONeil.