LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JUNE 28, 2019 • 09
‘Conversion therapy’ resolution passes California Assembly ACR 99 has evangelical support By KAREN OCAMB firstname.lastname@example.org Out Assemblymember Evan Low is trying something different. He wants to not only make law but also eradicate the harmful anti-LGBT stigma at the core of so-called “conversion therapy” through persuasion. On June 24, at the end of Pride Month and just days before the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, he took a firm step toward that goal when his ACR 99 passed the California Assembly on a voice vote, with support from moderate Republican Chad Mayes, son of a pastor and graduate of Liberty University. The non-binding resolution calls on all Californians, especially religious leaders and educators, to recognize the harm done to LGBT individuals who are forced to undergo the dangerous and disavowed practice of “conversion therapy” to try to change their immutable sexual orientation and gender identity into heterosexual. But this is not the outcome LGBT politicos expected after he pulled a bill last year. Low’s AB 2943 would have expanded the current California ban on “conversion therapy” by declaring it a fraudulent practice under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act and extending certain consumer protections to individuals harmed by efforts to “change” or “repair” their sexual orientation or gender identity. AB 2943 built on the LGBT youth protection bill authored by then State Sen. Ted Lieu to prevent state-licensed therapists from practicing “psychological child abuse” on minors under 18. Then Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill in Sept. 2012, telling the San Francisco Chronicle: “This bill bans non-scientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide. These practices have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.” Lieu’s bill became a national model with 18 states following with similar legislation. Low’s AB 2943 passed both chambers
Out Assemblymember Evan Low at Judiciary Committee hearing Photo courtesy Low’s office
and was expected to be signed into law by Brown, despite a swarm of controversy. In fact, the conservative Federalist.com called fact-checking website Snopes a “sneaky liar” after Snopes declared “False” some religious claims that the bill would make the sale of Bibles illegal. But that hasn’t stopped conservative media from spreading the inaccuracies. Many were shocked when Low pulled the bill. But in building support for AB 2943, he saw something else happening. Traditionally anti-LGBT religious told him that while they still considered homosexuality to be a sin, they did not agree with “reparative therapy.” “I was heartened by the conversations,” Low told the Los Angeles Blade last September. “A number of religious leaders denounced conversion therapy and recognized how harmful the practice is while acknowledging it has been discredited by the medical and psychological communities. I left those productive conversations feeling hopeful.”
After Low took a year to listen and dialogue, he introduced ACR-99. “We have a long road in the fight to remove LGBTQ stigma and discrimination from our culture,” he said. “While we live in one of the most politically divided times in living memory, ACR 99 demonstrates that it is possible for two seemingly divergent, but truly overlapping, communities to work together to address a controversial subject. We will continue to work together to build bridges and strengthen alliances in our fight against the harmful practice of conversion therapy.” Some of his most unlikely support came from religious educators who were keenly aware of the depression and suicidal thinking of LGBT students. “Believing that every person is created in the image of God, we support this call to equitable treatment of all people. We are glad to affirm your desire to see people as they are, protecting their autonomy, dignity, and to treat them with the respect that is due them
as God’s creation. The call to compassion and caring treatment is consistent with our deep desire to reflect Christ in all we do,” Kevin Mannoia, Chaplain at Azusa Pacific University and former President of the National Association of Evangelicals, said in a press release after the resolution passed the Judiciary Committee. Low says meeting with evangelical leaders was like “going into the lion’s den.” But then he had an epiphany, finding “such a different contrast to what I had anticipated the reception would be when I met with them,” especially the expected hate. As he was trying to build a coalition of support for his bill, Low established “a number of genuine warm relationships” with some evangelicals who were also interested in finding a common ground. “So that’s why I felt that, okay, we’re talking about conversion therapy, but this is much broader,” Low says. “The symbolism and the rhetoric and the narrative behind this is transformational. In other words, what can we now do from this resolution in which we have put ourselves on the front lines of this, and what can be build off of this? So yes, we will hope to then figure out what we can then codify and change into law with respect to strengthening our laws against conversion therapy.” After that, Low says the coalition will look at “other things that we can do to help build bridges with the religious community on a number of things affecting our LGBT community.” The Williams Institute at UCLA updated their January 2018 report on “conversion therapy” estimates noting that 698,000 LGBTQ adults (ages 18-59) in the United States were subjected to “conversion therapy,” of which 350,000 LGBTQ adults reporting that they were subjected to the practice as adolescents. The American Psychological Association previously released a finding stating that efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity are associated with poor mental health and tend to increase the risk of suicide, especially in LGBTQ youth. ACR 99 now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee and then to the full Senate.
Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 26, June 28, 2019