The California state Senate's debate and vote on a controversial bill banning so-called conversion therapy has been delayed due to public outcry against the legislation, sources say.
Known as AB 2943, the bill passed in the state assembly earlier this year and seeks to declare therapy for individuals with unwanted same-sex attractions or who want to leave homosexuality a fraudulent practice.
The bill was scheduled to come up for debate on the Senate floor last Thursday before the beginning of the summer recess but Evan Low, the Democrat Assemblyman who sponsored the legislation, opted to delay debate until the state legislators return in early August.
"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," said Jonathan Keller, the organization's president, in an interview with OneNewsNow.
Keller attributes the delay to the immense pushback that lawmakers received from people across the state and nation.
"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," he said.
The bill states that "advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual" is against the law under the state's consumer fraud statute and would mean that the bill would forbid the distribution resources, the selling of books, and offering counseling to someone looking for help with gender confusion and homosexuality, among other things.
Sources involved in the matter told The Christian Post on Wednesday that Low is now wanting to meet with representatives of churches whose pastors and lay leaders have objected to the bill in an effort to seek input for how it might be amended. Low's staff reportedly met with one such church representative on Saturday. Yet the churches message was that no amendment can improve the bill and that it needs to fail.
Sources also noted that in light of the Supreme Court's June ruling in favor of a network of crisis pregnancy centers in NIFLA v. Becerra — which held that the pro-life pregnancy centers were not required to advertise for abortion services as a California law said they must — they believe that AB 2943 would be defeated in court.
CP reported on July 1 that the majority opinion in the NIFLA ruling essentially dismantled such bans as it cites cases in which federal courts ruled that laws restricting sexual orientation change efforts were constitutional and that the speech of the counselor is not fully protected under the First Amendment since the speech is considered professional "conduct," and not mere speech.
But the NIFLA opinion stated that while certain appeals courts "have recognized 'professional speech' as a separate category of speech that is subject to different rules," the "speech is not unprotected merely because it is uttered by 'professionals,'" which marks a "profound shift" in jurisprudence, as Curtis Schube, legal counsel for the Pennsylvania Family Institute, told CP.
CP was also informed that assembly members and senators in liberal districts in California were barraged with phone calls from Christians who regard the legislation to ban counseling and therapy for unwanted same-sex attraction as malicious. A church pastor said he was contacted by a lawmaker who was in tears after receiving approximately 3,000 calls.
In a Facebook live video on Tuesday, Ken Williams who co-leads Equipped to Love, a ministry based in Redding, California, said he's optimistic because the national media coverage has enabled testimonies of the transforming power of Jesus Christ in people's sexual identity to gain a wider audience.
Williams was among those who spoke out against the law on the steps of the California capitol building in Sacramento as the bill was being fielded through various Senate committee processes.
"We are very encouraged, and we need to still be praying that the bill is defeated," Williams said, citing the Supreme Court's recent moves that lead him to think that the legislation will ultimately be defeated.
"But there are so many great things happening. People are standing up and sharing their stories that [they] never have before that they've experienced transformation in their identities because of their relationship with God."
Williams added that he and his colleagues are planning on taking their testimonies on the road and visiting different states and cities to help equip churches to minister more effectively with how to love LGBT-identified people as Jesus does and help defeat legislation in other states that seek to ban counseling and therapy for unwanted same-sex attraction.
"God is doing so many great things among us," he said.