By: Devinn Larsen
The controversial practice of sexual orientation change efforts–also known as conversion therapy–attempts to change or alter an individual’s sexual orientation through various methods including but not limited to religious intervention, aversion therapy, and hypnosis. Most medical practitioners and professional medical organizations reject conversion therapy as a valid practice due to the financial and psychological risks associated with the practice such as financial burden, emotional trauma, risk of suicide, and depression.
In 2012, California became the first state to pass an outright ban of conversion therapy practices on minors. To further support and embrace California’s LGBTQ community and to protect from any harmful effects conversion therapy may cause, Assembly Member Evan Low (D – San Francisco) proposed AB 2943. The bill set out to extend the prohibition of conversion therapy practices to adults by making any advertisements for, offers to practice conversion therapy, or the actual practice of conversion therapy violations of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) as deceptive practices. As the CLRA declares services unlawful when represented as having the approval, benefit, or quality they do not have, the lack of substantiated evidence as to the success of conversion therapy after years of medical research sparked the introduction of AB 2943 to expand the ban of conversion therapy practices to all.
In the original version of the legislation, AB 2943 faced harsh criticism from many conservative and religious groups claiming the broad language of the bill infringed on constitutional freedoms of religion and speech. Many attempts to amend AB 2943 to better comply with individual liberties occurred, and in the latest version of the bill the CLRA violations extension included only advertisements for, offers to sell, and the actual sale of conversion therapy services.
Even with the amendments, concerns of conservative and religious groups remained prompting additional challenges relating to the breadth of the language used. After attempts to reconcile the language concerns failed and after passing through many stages on its way to becoming law, Assembly Member Low ordered AB 2943 to the inactive file, effectively killing the legislation for this legislation session.
In a statement made after the withdrawal of AB 2943, Assembly Member Low explained, “The best policy is not made in a vacuum and in order to advance the strongest piece of legislation, the bill requires additional time to allow for an inclusive process not hampered by legislative deadlines.” Only time will tell as to whether any alternative proposals of similar legislation taking such a strong stance on the protections afforded to California’s LGBTQ community will resurface.
To learn more about AB 2943, listen to my interview on “In Session,” a podcast from the University of the Pacific Law Review.
Devinn Larsen is a staff writer for the University of the Pacific Law Review and law student student at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento.