Silicon Valley legislator pushes to ban conversion therapy
California Assemblyman Evan Low addresses a community member at San Jose's March For Our Lives Rally on Mar. 30 in this file photo. Photo by Kyle Martin

Silicon Valley Assemblyman Evan Low, an openly gay state legislator, has been working since last year to get conversion therapy recognized in California as fraudulent and harmful to LGBTQ+ residents.

Low this month introduced a new resolution to denounce conversion therapy services, joining with faith leaders to move California one step closer toward eradicating conversion therapy statewide.

Having pulled and amended a previous anti-conversion therapy bill — AB 2943 — last year, Low set out to get religious faith leaders on his side before introducing Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 99 to the state Legislature on June 4. Low’s resolution passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee earlier this month and the Assembly on Monday, garnering support from 57 coauthors.

“I’ve always said that I’ll do whatever I can to look at carrying legislation to ensure that we have an inclusive state for everyone,” Low told San José Spotlight in an interview Friday. “We are standing on the side of history, and that of science. We know that (conversion therapy) doesn’t work.”

Conversion therapy is the contentious process of attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation through psychological or spiritual interventions. The practice is banned on LGBTQ minors in 18 states across the country, including California.

Low said he’s spoken with LGBTQ community members who faced conversion therapy before, and he’s heard “everything you could possibly imagine.”

“Things that are very, very dark — very, very dark experiences, things that the average person would find atrocious,” Low said.

In his previous bill, Low cited psychological organizations opposed to conversion therapy practices, including the American Psychiatric Association, which denounced  “any psychiatric treatment such as reparative or conversion therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder” or based upon an assumption that a patient should change their sexual orientation.

When he decided to pull AB 2943 last year, Low met with religious leaders who would join with him and the queer community on his new resolution.

Low says “families are being duped in a moment of vulnerability” when they look to conversion therapy as some transformative practice to change someone from being gay, lesbian, queer or otherwise. “The pure notion that one could be changed, or one should be changed, is antithetical to my very existence,” Low said. “And we should be supporting policies and laws that embrace and celebrate who we are as humans.”

At least one faith leader agrees with Low.

“Believing that every person is created in the image of God, we support this call to equitable treatment of all people,” Kevin Mannoia, Chaplain at Azusa Pacific University and former President of the National Association of Evangelicals, said in a statement. “We are glad to affirm your desire to see people as they are, protecting their autonomy, dignity, and to treat them with the respect that is due them as God’s creation. The call to compassion and caring treatment is consistent with our deep desire to reflect Christ in all we do.”

Gabrielle Antolovich, president of the Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center in San Jose, said she’s grateful to see Bay Area faith leaders back the bill.

“It’s about time religious people and faith-based communities stand with us in meaningful ways, like through legislation,” Antolovich said. “Good for the religious people who are standing up against the other religious people.”

Antolovich herself escaped conversion therapy years ago when her parents suggested she go.

“Conversion therapy has been around for a very long time in many different forms. It’s about time the research shows it doesn’t help people,” she said. “You can’t change who you are. It’s like telling a heterosexual ‘we’re going to convert you and make you gay.’”

Contact Kyle Martin at kylebmartin96@gmail.com or follow him @Kyle_Martin35 on Twitter.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story referred to ACR 99 as a bill. It is a resolution, which does not require approval by the governor.

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