In a stunning turn of events, Evan Low, the author of AB 2943, withdrew the bill from being voted on and sent to the governor’s desk this year. In a statement that his office released, he said,
“Authoring Assembly Bill 2943 is one of the most personal decisions I have made since taking office. As an elected official, I made decisions that discriminated against my very existence in order to support the broader community I represented. I officiated at weddings but, at the time, I could not legally have one of my own. I hosted blood drives but I was prohibited from participating due to the FDA’s discriminatory ban on gay blood donors. I hosted Boy Scouts earning merit badges but as a child I was never able to earn my own.
“As a young person I often found myself confused about my sexual orientation. It was hard to find any mainstream media surrounding the feelings I was having. Gay men were not depicted in movies or TV that I was exposed to. I hid myself and my feelings because I was afraid of what others would think of me. This left me feeling very lost, scared, alone, and even suicidal. I wondered if I could change. 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.
“I authored Assembly Bill 2943 to ensure a remedy for those who are deceived by this deceptive practice. As the bipartisan bill progressed through the Legislature this year, opposition began to speak out against the legislation. I knew this was an emotionally charged issue, so I spent the past few months traveling up and down the state meeting with a wide variety of faith leaders.
“I was heartened by the conversations. 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. 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.
“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. With a hopeful eye toward the future, I share with you that, despite the support the bill received in the Assembly and Senate, I will not be sending AB 2943 to the Governor this year. I am committed to continuing to work towards creating a policy that best protects and celebrates the identities of LGBT Californians and a model for the nation to look towards.
“It is my obligation as a Legislator to make this difficult decision in the interest of finding common ground. The path towards full equality is a long journey, but a journey best traveled together. I invite you to join me.”
It sounds like he might try to reintroduce another version of this bill in the future, but, for the time being, it is being withdrawn.
I am very pleased by this result. As I’ve said in previous posts (here and here), there was a lot of concerning language in this bill, particularly over the definition of what constituted “sexual orientation change efforts.” I’m grateful to see Assemblymember Low take an approach that seeks to get this kind of legislation right rather than trying to rush something like this through before the legislative deadline.
The history and science surrounding conversion and reparative therapy is mixed and complicated, as I myself know well. Therapeutic methods for changing orientation have largely been unsuccessful (in some cases harmful) and there are many bad reasons to seek out such therapy. However, banning it outright would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
The truth is, orientation is not immutable. God can, and has, changed people’s orientation, even if it is a small minority of those wrestling with same-sex attractions. The growing body of scientific evidence surrounding the topic of sexual fluidity confirms this as well, as some people’s orientation will fluctuate naturally over time or change depending on context.
Reparative therapy didn’t change my orientation, but it did give me a safe place to discuss my innermost thoughts and feelings in an environment where I knew that I and my therapist held to similar convictions on this issue of homosexuality. AB 2943 would have taken away my ability to purchase such therapy in the future should I desire to go back. I’m happy that, for now, this bill is going back to the drawing board.