The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has quickly followed in Queensland’s footsteps and become the second Australian state to ban ‘conversion therapy’.
Just two weeks ago, Queensland made history when it became the first Australian state to ban the dangerous practice of ‘conversion therapy’. And now, the ACT has followed in its footsteps and issued its own ban.
The practice – which has been discredited by the NHS and the World Psychiatric Association – refers to any attempt at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and often involves techniques like electroshock therapy or prayer.
Under the law, which passed by 14-11, practitioners who attempt to change a person with diminished decision-making capabilities or a child’s sexuality or gender identity could face up to 12 months in prison, or a fine of AU$24,000.
The law, which comes into force next year, will still be in effect even if there was parental consent, or if the person was brought out of the state in order to have the ‘practice’ performed. The law will not ban someone from supporting or assisting a trans person who is transitioning.
Due to objections from the ACT Law Society and the Association of Christian Schools, an amendment was brought in, saying that a person has “the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to demonstrate their religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching, either individually or as part of a community and whether in public or private (under the Human Rights Act 2004)… It is not intended that a mere expression of a religious tenet or belief would constitute a sexuality or gender identity conversion practice.”
Gordon Ramsay, the state’s Attorney-General and a Christian minister choked back tears as he described his experiences of working with ‘converion therapy’ survivors, saying: “I have led congregations and communities of faith where people have sought refuge after [undergoing] conversion therapies.
“[The practices] have been done in the name of the church and even at times in the name of God. There is an insidious and clandestine manner in which these practices are carried out, mostly against children.”
He added: “An abuse of young people is not appropriately best covered by civil regulations. That is why criminal sanctions ought to apply.”
The law was welcomed by ‘conversion therapy’ survivors and groups, and praised for going further than the law that came into force in Queensland, as it bans religious groups from carrying it out.
“In passing this law, the ACT government has sent a strong message that conversion practices, whether performed by a health professional, a religious leader or any other person, are not to be tolerated,” Chris Csabs from the SOGICE Survivors said.
Nathan Despott, from the Brave Network added: “This law is ground-breaking as the first Australian example of legislation that successfully separates pseudoscientific conversion ideology from legitimate religious theology, rejecting the myth that the damaging and misleading claims at the heart of conversion practices are a core part of religious tradition.”
Addressing some faults in the new law, Ivan Hinton-Teoh, from the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Just-Equal, said: “On the downside, the ACT legislation doesn’t properly address therapeutically false, damaging and misleading claims; referrals and advertising related to conversion practices; and attempts to suppress sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The group ranked the new law as a seven out of ten.
And hopefully Queensland and the ACT will be joined by more Australian states as South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania are all debating whether to bring in bans on the discredited practice.