Gay conversion therapy is under fire these days and not the least in California, where the State Assembly has passed a bill banning any books promoting it.
I’d thought book banning had gone out of fashion some time ago, but not when the cause is efforts to change sexual behavior from bi or gay to hetero. What’s surprised me about this new law is not so much conservative opposition to it, but the paucity of coverage in the mainstream press.
As Teen Vogue tells us, the bill will make California the first state to ban the practice and, here is the hard part, even published materials linked to the subject.
I first heard of it while scanning the San Diego Union Tribune’s web site where I came upon this:
A debunked claim making the rounds in recent weeks -- that a new California bill would prohibit the sale of the Bible in the state -- continues to spread, especially on social media, despite reports from Politifact and Snopes explaining why it’s untrue.
Taking its turn in America’s culture wars is Assembly Bill 2943, which proposes to set strict restrictions on services to change a person’s sexual orientation, also known as “gay conversation therapy.” Current state law prohibits “sexual orientation change efforts” or SOCE for children under the age of 18, but AB 2943 would extend the ban to any person of any age and it would prohibit the advertising or sale of SOCE goods and services in the state, Snopes reported.
AB 2943 has passed in the assembly and is awaiting a vote in the state senate.
The Union-Trib needs to upgrade its copyediting, as it’s “gay conversion therapy,” not “gay conversation therapy." Meanwhile, misspellings aside, what’s a reporter doing quoting Snopes instead of doing the homework himself?
Anyone who follows Internet life knows that Snopes is far from impartial and its findings shouldn’t be the sole source of information for a story.
But the claim that such a bill could ban the sale of the Bible or other Christian books took off after remarks Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, made on One America News Network in April. Allen is a candidate running to be governor of California and he said the bill would “literally” ban Bible sales. … The claim has since spread like wildfire.
There have been discussions of this in certain national media.
... Most prominently, National Review columnist David French this week wrote that “yes, California is on the verge of banning some Christian books.” French’s column zeroes in on the broad interpretation of the law that could apply to SOCE goods sold, which could include the Christian books, he says without going as far as including the Bible as a Christian book.
It might help to know that French is a Harvard Law School graduate who specializes in religious-liberty cases.
Well with all this debate going on, surely there must be a lot written about this bill elsewhere in California media, I thought.
Turns out there wasn’t much. Maybe that’s because the state legislature only added gay conversion therapy to a state list of deceptive business practices on April 19, according to this article from the Los Angeles Times.
An opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times explained where religion comes into the equation. (As always, note that this is being covered with opinion pieces, not hard news allowing both sides to debate the wordings in this legislation.)
The text spells it out explicitly: It prohibits "any practices that seek to change an individual's sexual orientation." Would that clause make it illegal to market a book that urges readers to change their sexual orientation through prayer, as some religious conservatives have asserted? Probably not. Books aren't a change effort "with an individual" and no federal court would let a ban on religious books stand.
A subsequent passage, however, is more sweeping. It prohibits "efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex."
That goes even beyond trying to change sexual orientation.
So it sounds like the therapy clause wasn’t in the original bill, but was snuck in at the last minute just before the floor vote. As for other news pieces? I found some in the Los Angeles Blade and the California Catholic Daily, but precious few other outlets. MIA media include the Sacramento Bee (other than a four-paragraph AP article), the San Francisco Chronicle and the Orange County Register.
This video (the same atop this piece) shows that the gay lawmaker who organized the anti-conversion therapy clause had witnesses lined up to describe how oppressive the practice is. Someone planned a last-minute push to slip this measure in under the door before opponents could be alerted. Who was that? Why did they do so?
Since there are religious freedom and First Amendment issues at stake here, why aren’t more reporters following this?
Since the bill alleges consumer fraud on behalf of gay conversion literature, why not involve a business writer, since staff religion reporters are in short supply these days? Instead, most media have left coverage to the opinion writers and the activists. Which is not a great way to cover the news.