ACT bans conversion therapy

ACT bans conversion therapy

The ACT government has banned conversion therapy for LGBT people.

On Friday, 28 August, legislation passed the ACT’s legislative assembly that imposes a 12 month jail term or a fine of $24,000 for conversion practices that seek to change a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

The ACT’s Attorney-General (and Uniting Church minister) Gordan Ramsay said that the issue was one that had made itself known to him during his time as a church minister.

“I have led congregations and communities of faith where people have sought refuge after being subjected to conversion therapies that have been done in the name of the church and even at times in the name of God,” Rev. Ramsay said.

The legislation defines sexuality or gender identity conversion practices as, “a treatment or other practice … the purported purpose of which is to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity.”

The ACT government made a number of changes to the initial bill to clarify its purpose and allow for the expression of religious views. One amendment reads, “It is not intended that a mere expression of a religious tenet or belief would constitute a sexuality or gender identity conversion practice.”

ACT Opposition Leader Alistair Coe agreed that conversion therapy was “abhorrent” but said the new laws lacked clarity and that this could lead to “serious consequences.”

“Harmful conversion practices are abhorrent and are opposed by me personally and every Liberal member in the chamber. Some terrible things have been done to people under the banner of conversion therapy,” Mr Coe said.

“This bill from the ACT Government extends much further than these practices … these were the concerns expressed by the ACT Law Society as recently as yesterday.”

A number of Uniting Church ministers signed a letter sent to the Assembly, in favour of banning conversion therapy.

“There are differences and variety within both gender identity (males, females, transgender, intersex, and third-gender such as fa’afafine) and sexual orientation (same-sex attracted, opposite-sex attracted, bisexual, and asexual). Both of these characteristics exist across spectrums rather than existing in oppositional binary states. And this is the way that God has created human beings,” the letter read.

“For this reason, we believe that it is important not to invalidate, undermine, or challenge the identity of any individual. It is vital that, in accepting people as they are, we accept their sexual orientation, and their gender identity, without qualification.”

In 2018, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) declared that it, “unequivocally condemns conversion therapy, as does the World Medical Association.”

The legislation will come into effect in 2021.

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