SACRAMENTO — An effort to call gay conversion therapy a fraudulent business practice gained ground in the California state Senate on Tuesday, despite opposition from hundreds who rallied to fight the proposal on religious grounds.
The Judiciary Committee passed the proposal, which means it is a step closer to being considered by the entire state Senate. An earlier version of the legislation has already passed the state Assembly.
Sen. Bill Monning, a Democrat from Carmel, said he heard from some people who said they opposed the legislation because they believed it would restrict the reading of or sale of the Bible. He said he was confident amendments to the bill ensure it will not restrict use of the Bible and will not infringe on religious liberty.
Republican Sen. Joel Anderson of Alpine said the legislation would limit people's choices in seeking therapy. More than 350 people rallied at the state Capitol to oppose the proposal.
"I did not want to be gay," Jim Doman, a pastor who said the therapy helped him to marry his wife and have children. "Please do not take away professional help programs that have helped people like me."
The bill aims to ban selling or advertising sexual orientation change therapy.
Supporters of the bill authored by Assemblyman Evan Low, a Democrat, say it's an ineffective and harmful practice.
"Conversion therapy is psychological torture," said Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat who is gay. "There are people who want to erase people like me. . . It is shocking in some ways that in 2018 this is still happening."
Opponents gathered for a rally outside the Capitol ahead of the hearing. Several shared stories about how therapy helped them stop living as LGBT people.
Low, who heads the Assembly's LGBT caucus, said the bill does not harm freedom of speech or religion because it applies only to commercial practices or financial transactions.
He updated the bill's language since it passed the Assembly to more clearly state it applies to selling services rather than engaging in the practice.