Bill to label conversion therapy business fraud in California is pulled

Conversion Therapy

Conversion therapy became infamous after the 2007 “South Park” episode “Cartman Sucks.” Butters Stotch’s parents thought he was “bi-curious” and sent to him a pray-the-gay-away camp, where several youth committed suicide after being told they were sexually confused. Photo: Comedy Central.

In a stunning reversal, Assemblyman Evan Low has shelved his bill that would have labeled conversion therapy a fraudulent business practice on the very day it would have been sent to the governor’s office.

Low said he wants to find more consensus with religious leaders and groups who have vehemently opposed it.

AB 2943 would have declared conversion therapy a fraudulent business practice under the State’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act and extend consumer protections to anyone, regardless of age, who would be harmed by efforts to change their sexual orientation.

The bill, which had cleared the Assembly and Senate, was expected to go to Gov. Jerry Brown, who supporters thought would have signed it, today — the legislative deadline for all bills.

BILL PULLED LAST MINUTE

In a statement released Friday morning, Low, who identifies as gay and has spoken about how he considered considered conversion therapy as a teenager, said, “The best policy is not made in a vacuum and in order to advance the strongest piece of legislation, the bill requires additional time to allow for an inclusive process not hampered by legislative deadlines. … despite the support the bill received in the Assembly and Senate, I will not be sending AB 2943 to the Governor this year. I am committed to continuing to work towards creating a policy that best protects and celebrates the identities of LGBT Californians and a model for the nation to look towards.

“It is my obligation as a Legislator to make this difficult decision in the interest of finding common ground,” he said.

Assemblyman Evan Low

California Assemblyman Even Low has pulled his bill that would have labeled conversion therapy a fraudulent business practice. Low, seen at a June press conference in West Hollywood, said he wants to build more consensus with religious leaders who vehemently oppose the bill. Photo: Office of Evan Low.

Samuel Garrett-Pate, spokesmen with Equality California, one of the bill’s sponsors, said the Consumer Legal Remedies Act already contains protections that the bill would have provided.

“The protections are still there,” he said.

“It’s more important to gay any policy right before going to the governor,” Garrett-Pate said. “That’s the conversation will will continue to have, working to build consensus.”

Low had said that the bill does not impede freedom of speech, such as books, or religion. It applies only to financial transactions.

Gay man who survived conversion therapy tells his story in book ‘The Inheritance of Shame’

DANGEROUS THERAPY

That means families and religious groups and leaders can continue using the discredited practice.

In 2009, after a review of 83 studies published between 1960 and 2007, an American Psychological Association task force concluded that no evidence existed to prove that conversion therapy works and it “poses critical health risks.”

The American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and the American Medical Association all oppose conversion therapy on the basis that it is not evidence-based and potentially harmful to the patient’s mental health. The practice also contributes to social stigma by characterizing homosexuality as a mental illness, a view that has been discredited for decades.

The American Psychological Association advises mental health professionals to avoid telling patients that they can change their sexual orientation because evidence doesn’t exist that such a change is possible and it’s the potentially harmful to the patient’s mental health.

CALIFORNIA LAW

In 2012 in California, SB 1172, by then Sen. Ted Lieu, was signed into law and prohibits licensed mental health providers from performing conversion therapy with a patient under 18 years of age. Anyone who violates this law is subject to discipline by the provider’s licensing entity.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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