Uniting Church WA call for legislation against LGBTQ+ conversion practices

The Uniting Church of Western Australia have released a statement calling on the McGowan Government to introduce legislation to protect LGBTQ+ people from conversion ideology.

The church is urging the state government to work with Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Change Efforts (SOGICE) Survivors and people to faith to create legislation that would outlaw attempts to change or suppress a person’s sexuality or gender identity.

Noting that past organisations which had been established primarily for SOGICE purposes have disbanded and apologised to those harmed, the Uniting Church of WA believe Christian practice should not be used to harm or condemn LGBTQIA+ folks.

More than 100 lay and ordained members elected from Uniting Church WA congregations Good Sammy’s, Juniper, Uniting WA, MLC, Penrhos College, PLC, Scotch College, St Stephen’s School, Tranby College, Wesley College and Trinity Residential College came together to discuss issues of importance in the life of the church and the wider community at the 45th Annual Meeting of the Synod of WA, held over the weekend.

“The Uniting Church WA believes that every person is precious and entitled to love with dignity,” Uniting Church WA Social Justice Commission Chair Mark Brisbane said.

“It is this belief which forms the church’s call to work towards a vision of doing no further harm.”

The church also recognised that many LGBTQIA+ folks do not feel safe at church or in religious settings, working to provide their congregations, schools and agencies opportunities to undertake education on LGBTQ+ conversion history.

LGBTQIA+ advocates have also been calling on the McGowan Government to take action on conversion practices in the wake of Victoria, Queensland and the ACT legislating against SOGICE efforts in various forms.

Mental Health Minister Stephen Dawson said the re-elected McGowan Government was working with multiple government agencies to progress their action towards prohibiting conversion therapy in Western Australia, and he was familiar with the legislation introduced in Victoria.

The minister said he acknowledged “that these practices go against the basic human rights principles of dignity, equality and mutual respect. All people have the right to be treated fairly and be able to have the freedom to make choices in their lives.”

Minister Dawson said the McGowan government had identified through the Mental Health Commission that LGBTIQA+ young people were a target group requiring appropriate mental health and alcohol and other drug services and support.

Spokesperson for just.equal, Brian Greig, said the Minister’s response was “vague”, and he had not addressed the question.

“It is not enough to ban conversion practices in professional counselling sessions. More than 90 per cent of conversion practices take place in informal religious settings.

“Trying to ban conversion practices but excluding religious groups, is like trying to ban the sale of alcohol but excluding bottle shops,” Greig said.

Ahead of this year’s state election, WA Labor reiterated that they were opposed to “conversion therapy”, but have still made no commitment to legislating for restriction or a ban.

Leigh Andrew Hill

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