Calif. legislature approves measure criticizing pastors for not embracing LGBT identities

California State Capitol building with state flag in Sacramento on a windy summer day with clear sky.
California State Capitol building with state flag in Sacramento on a windy summer day with clear sky. | Getty/Stock photo

The California Legislature has passed a resolution blaming religious leaders and groups that support sexual orientation change efforts therapies for the suicides and attempted suicides of those who identify as LGBT. 

In a party-line vote last week, the state Senate approved Assembly Concurrent Resolution 99, which demands that people of faith in the state change their approach to ministering to same-sex attracted men and women and others who identify as LGBT.

The resolution, though nonbinding, was sponsored by Democratic state Assemblyman Evan Low of San Jose. The text of ACR-99 criticizes pastors, counselors, and other religious ministers helping those who are struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender confusion. The resolution calls religious views about sexual ethics that do not affirm LGBT identities “stigmatizing beliefs” that contribute to depression and suicide.

The measure comes just over a year after AB 2943, legislation also brought forward by Low, would have categorized such counseling options as "consumer fraud." The legislation had been approved by both chambers and was headed to the governor's desk for signature before Low ultimately withdrew it amid public outcry.

Since ACR-99 is a resolution, it requires no signature from the governor.

Supporters of the resolution assert that religious liberty does not apply here as it amounts to discrimination. They also argue that such counseling from faith-based groups is "psychological torture" and "mental health malpractice."

"Until recently, the interpretation of the First Amendment was that one religion could not impose itself on other religions,” said Democratic state Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara. That “one should have religious freedom to discriminate against others is a relatively new concept,” she added.

Legislators who voted against the measure highlighted its encroachment on First Amendment rights.

Republican state Sen. Andreas Borgeas of Fresno said that while the resolution does not have the force of law behind it, “we are treading into freedom of speech territory that I think should concern all of us."

"When an individual seeks therapy or guidance before a religious leader, whether it be a mosque, a temple, or a church, that’s a private setting. … To disallow or create the pathway where we tell individuals they cannot say certain things should give us pause,” he said.

In a Thursday interview with The Epoch Times, Greg Burt of the California Family Council echoed similar concerns.

'“We believe in free speech. They [the legislators] have every right to criticize our position, but the state government does not have the right to use its power to coerce us to change. And that’s where we believe this resolution is heading,” he said.

The passage of the California resolution occurred just before the city council in New York City announced that it's moving to scrap its ban on the kinds of counseling the West Coast state sought to outlaw last year, after the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit in January, challenging its constitutionality on First Amendment grounds.

The city council, though decidedly in favor of the ban, moved to repeal it believing that it would not withstand court challenges and be rejected as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

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