Star Observer – NSW Government introduces laws to ban harmful LGBTQ+ conversion practices

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This article was originally published by the Star Observer. You can find the original article here.

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by GRACE JOHNSON

The NSW Government will today introduce the long-awaited bill to ban harmful LGBTQ+ conversion practices, which Premier Chris Minns says would “save lives” if passed.

The bill would outlaw conversion practices such as religious “straight camps” or hypnotherapy sessions, which are designed to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Conversion practices that are proven to cause harm to a person will be criminalised, with a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison.

Minns said, “Every person in NSW deserves to be respected for who they are and that’s exactly what these new laws will do.”

“It is intolerable that we have a situation in NSW where children can be told something is wrong with them and that they need to be fixed.”

Independent MP for Sydney Alex Greenwich, who introduced the bill to parliament last year, said he was grateful to the NSW Government for adopting the legislation.

“This bill will make NSW safer for LGBTQA people, by making it clear that we are not broken, we don’t need to be fixed, and those who attempt to cause harm through these dangerous practices are breaking the law,” he said.

“The legislation has protections for churches and parents, but most importantly protects LGBTQA+ people from the damage that comes from trying to change or suppress sexuality or gender identity,” he continued.

The introduction of the bill has come after significant delays after church groups wanted more consultation. Mr Greenwich had also asked the government to delay the bill to consult further with gay rights groups.

Queensland banned gay conversion therapy in 2020, and Victoria in 2021.

Exemptions for religion and parents

The bill has been developed to protect members of the LGBTQ+ community while protecting religious and cultural beliefs and practices.

Attorney-General Michael Daley said religious leaders who gave sermons about the “sin” of homosexuality would be protected under the laws.

“The Government does not intend to ban the teachings of a religious leader or expression of a religious belief through sermon,” he said.

But if the praying was directed at an individual with the intention of changing their sexual identity, and proven to cause harm, that would be unlawful.

The Australian Christian Lobby opposed the bill and said on its website that the “cruel” conversion practices historically used in Australia no longer happen.

The group had previously said that the plan to outlaw conversion therapy was seeking to ban religious practices, but the NSW Premier said he has attempted to take these concerns into account with the new laws.

Conversion practices include anything from sustained pressure from a church or religious figure to suppress or change one’s sexuality to exorcisms or aversion tactics.

There are also exemptions for conversations between parents and children, unless there are sustained efforts to change a person’s identity and proof of harm.

Support for the bill 

Minister for Health Ryan Park welcomed the bill, saying “Conversion practices are incredibly harmful and have severely damaging health impacts. I am proud to be part of a government that is delivering on its commitment to stop them.”

Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council Penny Sharpe reiterated, “LGBTQ+ people are fine just the way they are.”

“There is no place in NSW for harmful conversion and suppression practices.”

Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown told ABC, “We stand with survivors in welcoming this bill and we urge all MPs to seize this opportunity to end these archaic and harmful practices which have already caused untold harm and have no place in modern Australia.”

Anthony Venn-Brown, CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International, said the bill was “long overdue”.

“Homosexuality was taken off the list of mental disorders half a century ago. Since then often well-intentioned people acting on ill-informed and outdated information have continued to cause harm to the very people they seek to save,” he said.

“This legislation to protect vulnerable LGBTQ people is long overdue. We are not ‘broken’ or need ‘fixing’. This bill will save lives and make NSW a safer place for LGBTIQ+ people.”

This article was originally published by the Star Observer. You can find the original article here.

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