14 August 2020

Laws to ban gay conversion therapy introduced in Assembly

| Dominic Giannini
Join the conversation
Rainbow roundabout in Braddon

Gay conversion therapy will be banned in the ACT under new legislation introduced into the Legislative Assembly on Thursday, 13 August. Photo: File.

New legislation to outlaw gay conversion therapy was introduced into the ACT Legislative Assembly yesterday (13 August), two years after the Government delivered its Capital of Equality plan.

Under the bill, those found to engage in the practice of sexuality or gender identity conversion of a protected person – defined as a child or a person who has impaired decision-making ability in relation to a matter relating to the person’s health or welfare – can face up to $24,000 in fines or 12 months’ imprisonment.

It will also be illegal to remove a protected person from the ACT for conversion therapy.

“We’ve certainly got survivors who are living in the ACT, and people who have experienced this sort of conversion therapy even in the past five to 10 years in the ACT,” Chief Minister Andrew Barr said.

“There are contemporary examples [and] I understand the practice to be still occurring in most Australian states and territories. It has evolved a little from the 20th-century practices that involved electro-shock therapy and the use of drugs to induce nausea … seeking to chemically alter them.

“It has become more psychological. There are still examples across the nation where organisations purport to be able to change someone’s sexuality in a way that is clearly debunked from medical and psychological professionals.”

Andrew Barr and Anthony Toms

Andrew Barr – Australia’s first openly gay head of government – married his partner of two decades, Anthony Toms in Newcastle last November. Photo: Ellen Starrett.

Criminal charges will not be leveled against religious teachers or medical professionals or psychiatrists providing legitimate services that relate to the development or affirmation of a person’s sexuality or gender identity.

Mr Barr co-sponsored the bill with the Minister for Justice Shane Rattenbury.

“Conversion practices are based on a bogus ideology that LGBTIQ+ people are ‘broken’ or ‘unnatural’ and need to be fixed. This could not be further from the truth,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“These practices are abhorrent, dangerous and outdated. They can lead to anxiety, depression, substance abuse, even suicide. Survivors say it can take a whole lifetime to undo the damage caused – if achieved at all.”

Complaints will be dealt with through the ACT Human Rights Commission.

Shane Rattenbury

Justice Minister Shane Rattenbury has labelled the practice of gender conversion “abhorrent, dangerous and outdated”. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The bill’s explanatory statement outlined protections for religious schools.

“This measure will not prevent religious schools from teaching the tenets of their faith, including teachings on homosexuality or gender identity. It is aimed only at practices that actively seek to change the sexuality or gender identity of a person,” the statement says.

READ ALSO Religious schools push for rethink of ACT’s ‘gay conversion therapy’ ban

The bill is set to pass with the Canberra Liberals providing their in-principle support ahead of its introduction to the Assembly.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

I hope this bill also covers perverts grooming children into acts of degeneracy because a little boy once played with a barbie doll. That should definitely be outlawed.

Someonesmother3:48 pm 16 Aug 20

I sincerely hope this includes religious organisations or people too as QLD didn’t go far enough to include them in their legislation.

How do you know that Eddie? The bill has just been presented to the Assembly by the government and can be found at http://aod.parliament.act.gov.au/. Andrew Barr and Shane Rattenbury both spoke on it and the Bill will be debated after the election in October. The printed copy of the Hansard is usually published on the Assembly website a few days after (probably next week) and sets out the detail of the bill.

The danger of this bill is that parents face fines if they seek to discourage or stop their son or daughter pursuing some teenage impulse to change their sexuality. That is the effect, if not the motivation, of whoever is behind it – to undermine families. In a confusing and stressful world it is hard enough already to raise a daughter as a girl to become a woman and to raise a son as a boy to become a man. Thanks to Barr and his Greens it becomes even more difficult.

house_husband10:40 am 16 Aug 20

It has nothing to do with “pursuing some teenage impulse to change their sexuality”. It has everything to do with allowing young people to understand what their sexuality is in the first place free from the religious beliefs of their parents.

I have no problem with adults being able to participate in a religion of their choice that may have a particular view on sexuality and gender. And if those adults freely choose through prayer to try to modify their sexuality to align with their religion then good luck to them.

This is all about society protecting children from behaviours that have the capacity to harm them psychologically and physically when they are unable to give a truly informed consent (the withholding of medical care due to religious beliefs is another example).

If not having access to gay conversion therapy is making it harder for you to be a ‘parent’, then perhaps you should stick to cats and dogs!

Brilliant. Way overdue.

Martin Keast2:13 pm 14 Aug 20

The ACT Government is banning things (through a very broad and poor definition of conversion practices) like prayer, pastoral counselling and Bible readings and teaching that speaks on marriage and gender – they are being disingenuous by citing abhorrent activities like shock therapy when the definition is so broad than many parents will potentially be liable to criminal charges, as well as many pastors. This is not as innocent as it sounds.

No one knows the detail of the bill yet Martin Keast it has not been published. The Bill was introduced in the assembly yesterday by Andrew Barr and its detail will be in the Hansard transcript which should be published next week. What is known is that conversion therapy is insidious, unatural and seeks to change the sexuality and gender identity of individuals, usually the most vulnerable and causes untold damage.

Perhaps if the ‘readings and teachings’ weren’t so toxic and restrictive of individual rights, there wouldn’t be such strong community support for them to do so.

Sometimes I struggle to understand how ‘believers’ don’t see the logical falacy in ‘feeling persecuted for loosing their right to persecute’, then I remember that you structure your life around the belief that the world is less than 10,000 years old and was created in a week by a bloke whose son was born to a virgin.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.