The California state Senate will vote this week on legislative proposals barring counseling services for individuals with unwanted same-sex attractions and requiring foster children with gender dysphoria to only receive treatment affirming their gender confusion.
The two separate bills, AB 2943 and AB 2119, were approved earlier this year by the state's lower chamber, the state Assembly.
The text of AB 2943 outlaws "any practices that seek to change an individual's sexual orientation" which include "efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex" and bans advertising or "offering for sale" any such counseling services they consider fraudulent. What are referred to as "change efforts," do not have to involve a claim to change same-sex attractions but just a change of same-sex or transgender behaviors.
AB 2119 bans "subjecting a foster child or non-minor dependent to any treatment, intervention, or conduct that seeks to change the foster child's or non-minor dependent's gender identity."
Should this bill pass, no counselor, parent, foster parent, or social worker would be allowed to tell a gender-confused boy that he is a boy, or a gender-confused girl she is a girl.
Opponents, particularly Christians, regard the pending legislation as a threat to liberty.
"This bill is indeed the greatest threat to free speech and the free exercise of religion in my lifetime," commented Robert Gagnon, former professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, said on his Facebook page Sunday, speaking of AB 2943. Gagnon is also the author of the 2002 book The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics.
"AB 2943 does not exempt from state action any oral or written communications associated with a monetary transaction that convey, in whole or part, that people should stop engaging in homosexual practice or expressing themselves as a gender at odds with their biological sex established before birth," he said.
Dr. Andre Van Mol, a family physician based in Redding, California noted in a Monday interview with The Christian Post that the bills' authors have tried to amend their legislation but believes no amendment will suffice as the proposed laws operate from flawed premises and should be withdrawn or defeated.
"Both bills are attempts to legislate the false beliefs that sexual orientation and gender dysphoria are inborn and unchangeable. Neither is true," Van Mol said.
"AB2943 calls change therapy — under the pejorative term 'conversion' therapy — fraudulent practice, but it's 2943 that is fraudulent. Many people who found change from LGBT identity spoke before the Assembly and Senate, and they were largely ignored."
Several of those individuals who testified both in the legislature during the hearings and on the steps of the state capitol building are featured in a new book called Changed: #OnceGay Stories. The book provides a snapshot into the lives of dozens of men and women who left homosexuality and transgenderism, many of whom recount how various kinds of counseling helped them. Several of these individuals are now in heterosexual marriages and have children.
Van Mol gave testimony against AB2119 in both Assembly and Senate Human Services Committees, representing the American College of Pediatricians as co-chair of their Committee on Adolescent Sexuality during the hearings.
"With AB 2119 the state of California is directing that any foster child with gender dysphoria should be 'affirmed' in fighting their biological sex, despite such not being proven safe or beneficial, for a condition that goes away by adulthood 80-95% of the time," he told CP.
The California Family Council has been actively opposing the bill, and believes the floor vote will likely take place Thursday. The Assembly will have to vote on the measure again due to an added amendment, the advocacy group noted. Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, is expected to sign the legislation should it reach his desk.
Even the Los Angeles Times has criticized AB 2943, arguing in May that the bill goes too far.
"[I]t's true that AB 2943 covers only sexual orientation change efforts that result in the 'sale or lease of goods or services' and thus wouldn't affect a lot of religious communications in which no money changes hands. But what if a minister urged someone he or she was counseling to buy a book or enroll in a religious seminar that charged a registration fee? Treating that activity as consumer fraud would raise serious constitutional questions," the LA Times editorial board wrote in an May 7 op-ed.