Few public policy debates are as emotionally charged as those addressing sexuality and gender. In California, Christian advocates, academics, and clergy faced such challenges as they protested a bill which threatened to ban sexual orientation change efforts (or SOCE). Miraculously though, their efforts were met with some reconsideration by the very author of the bill.
California’s Assembly Bill 2943 would have banned all fee-based practices that aim to help people with unwanted same-sex attraction, behavior, or gender confusion and label such efforts as “unlawful business practice.” The long-term implications of the bill would be to outlaw books, counseling, and conferences encouraging a change of sexual behavior or gender identity consistent with Christian teaching.
The bill’s author, Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley) is openly gay and the chairman of California’s Legislative LGBTQ Caucus. He says he introduced AB 2943 out of concern for “conversion therapy” and “to ensure a remedy for those who are deceived by this deceptive practice.”
“Coming out was not an easy experience. Yet, I am grateful my community embraced me as I was, a gay man. Many fellow members of the LGBT community are not as fortunate and do not have the support I did and have been subjected to the harmful and fraudulent practice of conversion therapy,” wrote Low in an official statement.
Our friends at California Family Council (CFC) were at the forefront of religious leaders challenging AB 2943.
“People of faith across California and around the nation care deeply about our family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers who identify as LGBTQ,” said CFC President Jonathan Keller. “AB 2943 would have tragically limited our ability to offer compassionate support related to sexual orientation and gender identity, and even to preach Jesus’ message of unconditional love and life transformation.”
After continued pushback from citizens of faith, Low decided to meet with religious leaders and hear their complaints. “I believe every person who attended these meetings left with a greater understanding for the underlying reason and intention of this bill to create a loving and inclusive environment for all. However, I believe there is still more to learn,” he stated after making the decision to withdraw his bill.
In response, Keller expressed relief and gratitude on behalf of the Christian citizens his organization represents. He stated:
We are inexpressibly grateful to Assemblymember Low for meeting personally with faith leaders over the last several months and sincerely listening to our concerns. Today is also a testament to the courageous counselors, ministry leaders, pastors, and OnceGay individuals who bravely shared their personal stories, ensuring that these vital perspectives were not overlooked in the legislative process.
Don’t expect Low’s overall aims to dissolve, however. In his statement, Low expressed a commitment to “creating a policy that best protects and celebrates the identities of LGBT Californians” and is a “model for the nation to look towards.” But for now, we offer our thanksgiving for Low’s active listening to the concerns of his overreaching bill.Google+