Victoria’s conversion therapy ban likely to pass upper house

A ban on LGBTQ+ conversion practices is one step closer in Victoria, with a bill set to pass through the state’s upper house with support from crossbench MPs.

The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill passed the lower house on its final sitting day in December 2020, with all 55 MPs in the chamber voting in favour, while the Liberal opposition abstained from the vote.

In the Legislative Council, The Greens’ Samantha Ratnam, Animal Justice Party’s Andy Meddick and Reason Party leader Fiona Patten have signalled their support, making its passage a near certainty.

Conversion practice survivors and religious groups have welcomed the Victorian Labor government’s firm stance on LGBTQIA+ rights, while also raising concerns of a co-ordinated campaign to block the bill by conservative and anti-LGBTQIA+ groups.

In a joint letter to Premier Dan Andrews, members of Brave Network, SOGICE Survivors, Uniting Network, Equal Voices and Rainbow Catholics InterAgency for Ministry specifically praise Victoria’s strong anti-conversion therapy legislation.

“The Change and Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill represents the world’s most significant achievement in legislation curtailing the diabolical influence of the conversion movement,” the letter reads.

“Since its introduction to parliament in late 2020, the bill has been celebrated by LGBTQA+ advocacy organisations around the world, including Outright Action International, CT Survivors (US/Canada), No Conversion Canada and Ozanne Foundation (UK).”

The letter also examines fierce opposition to the ban from conservative religious groups such as Interfaith Communities of Victoria, as well as the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), who took out a double page advertisement in the Herald Sun to fight the bill.

“[The advertisement] featuring signatures of a moderate number of conservative individuals claiming to be representative leaders, hold extreme views that do not align with the beliefs of most mainstream faith communities and are not representative of what our society believes to be just or good for the wellbeing of all people.”

“There is evidence to show that a large number of those groups are perpetrators of conversion practices. Precisely why we advocate for this bill to remain as strong as it is and safely passed into law.”

Brave Network, SOGICE Survivors, Equal Voices, Uniting Network and Rainbow Catholics InterAgency for Ministry wrote the…

Posted by Sogice Survivor Statement on Saturday, 30 January 2021

The letter also disputes claims made in the ACL’s advertisement, with survivors writing they believe the bill carefully balances the protection of religious freedoms with the protection of the rights and freedoms of LGBTQA+ people.

“We encourage your government to continue to resist calls to amend, adjust, or reduce the scope of the bill.”

In a petition published on the ACL website, the conservative organisation is warning the bill is a threat to parental rights, religious freedom and “you personally”.

“Under this legislation, you will be at risk of hefty fines, losing custody of your child, or serving a jail term if you do anything less than fully affirm your child in transitioning gender,” the petition reads.

“You can’t suggest they wait until they’re older, you can’t pray for them, or refer them to a faith leader, counsellor or support group.”

As highlighted in the survivors letter, the bill’s single mention of the word ‘prayer’ appears in the context of direct-action conduct, such as exorcisms or “deliverance practices”.

“The suggestion by leaders in the Victorian community that the bill targets prayer more broadly is misguided or misleading,” the survivor’s letter argues.

“We further note that statements made during the bill’s second reading affirm that, under the first element of the definition of ‘change or suppression practice’… conduct not directed at a specific person (such as ‘sermons expression a general statement of belief’) or the circumstance in which a person seeks counsel from a faith leader and that leaders articulates a view that the teachings of their faith consider same-sex attraction to be sinful, but ‘only to convey their interpretation of those teachings and not to change or suppress’ the person’s sexuality or gender identity are unlikely to be prohibited by this law.

“Furthermore, we make no apologies for our insistence that the most prominent modalities used to deliver – and to disguise – conversion practices, including prayer-based practices and talk therapy, be listed in the bill.”

Anti-transgender organisation Binary have also shared their opposition to the bill, branding it as “pure evil.”

“Women, children, lesbians, gays, families and more in Victoria will be directly impacted by this shocking law. And even more alarmingly, Andrews wants to impose his draconian, totalitarian law on residents of all states of Australia,” Binary spokesperson and former Australian Liberty Alliance candidate Kirralie Smith claims.

“The bill aims to prevent anyone – a parent, grandparent, doctor, psychiatrist – from acting with compassion and reason underwritten by evidence-based science.”

Conversion therapy survivors also address similar claims in their joint letter.

“To suggest that the bill proposes mere ideological constructs of sexuality and gender identity is to wilfully ignore the years of progress we have made as a global society towards making our world safer for LGBTQA+ people through recognising and upholding their identities, rights, and humanity.”

OIP Staff

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