California bill seeks to penalize religious freedom and free speech against gender issues

A new bill introduced at the California legislature could soon penalize people who express objection to homosexuality and gender issues. Entered into the floor last February, the bill is moving fast in the deliberations.

The first gender-neutral restroom in the Los Angeles school district is seen at Santee Education Complex high school in Los Angeles, California, U.S., April 18, 2016.REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Assembly Bill 2943 (AB 2943) is an amendment to the Consumer Legal Remedies Act that disallows efforts in line with sexual orientation changes. Various groups, however, warn that if passed, the bill could have serious implications for those who believe that homosexuality is a sin.

Focus on the Family president Jim Daly called the bill "misguided legislation." He believes that AB 2943, which has passed two readings, would make any efforts to help a person struggling with gender identity vulnerable to punitive damages and lawsuits under the guise of consumer protection.

Daly further fears that activities like the purchase of a book on overcoming homosexuality or hiring the services of a counselor to help a person with gender confusion could also be seen as unlawful based on AB 2943, threatening religious freedom and free speech.

Other groups also expressed their disapproval of the bill.

"California AB 2943 makes it unlawful for any person to sell books, counseling services, or anything else that helps someone overcome unwanted same-sex attraction or gender identity confusion," Matt Sharp, the lawyer for the Alliance Defending Freedom, stated in a press release.

"As a result, it could be a violation if a pastor encourages a congregant to visit the church book store to purchase books that help people address sexual issues," he added.

The American College of Pediatricians also released a statement expressing its opposition to the proposed bill. The college stated that the limitation deprives gender-confused individuals of the chance to look into all options for therapy and counseling, which might compel them to commit suicide as a last resort.