Opponents of conversion therapy laws fight to stop them in WA

Former Liberal MP Peter Abetz, who is now the WA director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), says the McGowan Labor Government is considering introducing legislation to ban conversion therapy.

“The McGowan government is seriously considering introducing legislation based on Victoria’s Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Bill 2020, which passed its final hurdle in the Legislative Council last week.” Abetz claims in his latest post on the Australian Christian Lobby website.

The ACL, who campaigned against the introduction of legislation in Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria, says the laws are “draconian” and a direct attack on Christians and religious freedom.

Despite the claim from Abetz, the McGowan Government has not been forthcoming in confirming if any plans are actually being considered.

LGBTI rights organsiation just.equal wrote to all major political parties asking them to outline their policies in several key areas relating to the LGBTI communities, including introducing legislation to ban conversion practices, but so far only the Greens have provided a response.

Earlier this week Greens’ member Alison Xamon wrote in OUTinPerth that the McGowan government had failed to take action on the issue during its four years in government.

“Health Minister Roger Cook has repeatedly voiced his opposition to the practice, but his Government has to date refused to commit to introducing legislation to ban it.” Xamon wrote.

Peter Abetz highlights that if similar laws were introduced in Western Australia they could potentially stop people like ex-gay advocate James Parker from running an “informal network” that “supports people who are struggling with sexuality and gender identity issues.”

Parker, who regularly appears alongside Abetz at speaking events, shares his story of how he was a gay rights activist in Britain but was able to embrace heterosexuality after he became a Christian.

Last year Parker appeared on Sky News comparing laws which ban conversion therapy practices to the Nazi Gestapo, and the Stasi secret police – who operated in communist East Germany. The Christian activist, who has previously campaigned against the Safe Schools program and marriage equality, had a memorable appearance on Perth radio back in 2017 when he made a serious claims arguing that being gay could lead to an early death.

The Australian Christian Lobby’s Managing Director Martyn Iles said the passage of the Victorian legislation showed Australian Christians a clear message.

“They hate Christians, and they want to silence us.” Iles said in an email delivered to the groups mailing list on Thursday morning.

“It could put people like you and me in jail. It will certainly see criminal action against Christian parents. It could even outlaw the teaching of the Bible.” Iles claimed as he appealed for donations to support the lobby group.

In a video post Christian lobbyist said passed in Victoria had criminalised the truth.

“It basically criminalises the truth,  it takes those truths about marriage, about gender, about sex, about family, and things like that, things which Christians hold dear, which are part of creation itself, and it says that those ideas, the expression of them, the living out of them, can become criminal acts.”

Iles said there was a large group of people who choose being a Christian ahead of feelings about being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, but these Australians were not ever shown in the media.

The ACL’s view on the issue however does not represent the position of all churches, with some organisations welcoming the Victorian legislation.

The Uniting Church’s national network for LGBTIQ+ people said they would be celebrating the passage of the legislation with survivors, allies and advocates. 

“Survivors and advocates are pleased that the Victorian Parliament and broader community have rejected the misinformation spread and the myth that the bill was too vague and an overreach and have instead overwhelmingly come out in support of the lives of LGBTIQ+ people”, Uniting Network executive member Nicole Mugford said after the legislation passed.

“This is world leading legislation and has been hard-won by survivors and advocates who have been involved in consultation processes, sharing their personal stories and experiences and campaigning for this life saving legislation.” Mugford said. 

The Uniting Church’s LGBTIQ+ Network said they were confident that the Victorian legislation would lead the way in other parts of Australia to implement similar legislation that will be equally effective in banning conversion practices.

Mugford said that Uniting Network members know that many LGBTIQ+ people have subjected themselves to both formal and informal conversion practices in the past.

“They are striving to be accepted by the communities they grew up in. Those same communities reject people and their natural sexual orientation / gender identity which cannot be changed and therefore ultimately reject LGBTIQ+ people.  The consequences of this rejection can be devastating”.

“What we know is that God loves all people, as they are. This legislation bans conversion practices in any form and send a strong message to LGBTIQ+ people that they are not broken and don’t need fixing,” Mugford said.

OUTinPerth contacted James Parker for comment. 

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