The Australian Labor Party has chosen not to adopt a proposed policy to criminalise LGBTI conversion therapy.

According to a consultation draft of the ALP’s platform the policy would have opposed “the practice of so-called conversion and reparative therapies on LGBTIQ+ people and seek to criminalise these practices”. The decision was made at the ALP’s national conference in Adelaide on Monday.

Labor instead chose to amend their platform to recognise the harm caused by conversion therapy, and the party will “develop strategies to work with communities to prevent such harm and promote justice for LGBTIQ people affected by them”.

The Australian Christian Lobby released a statement welcoming the “watered down” approach.

“The ALP’s decision to back away from criminalising LGBT conversion therapies is welcome news to religious communities and parents,” said Martyn Iles, ACL’s managing director.

“The ALP’s previous platform expanded the term to include mere claims that sexual orientation or gender identity can change. It singled out religious communities who make such claims and said parents who did the same could be deemed domestic and psychological abusers.”

The statement also takes credit for the new “watered down” approach after the ACL petitioned Labor’s proposed policy back in August, claiming it received nearly 60,000 signatures.

“ACL single-handedly raised the alarm on what would have been a dangerous policy for parents, counsellors and even medical practitioners with a faith identity,” said Iles,

As reported by BuzzFeed News, however, the change to Labor’s national platform was supported by Rainbow Labor, the ALP’s LGBTI group.

“The best advice is that criminalisation won’t work and could make the situation worse and drive the practice underground,” said Senator Louise Pratt, a spokesperson for Rainbow Labor.

Their position was based on recommendations from the report Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice: Responding to LGBT conversion therapy in Australia, a joint initiative of La Trobe University, the Human Rights Law Centre, and Gay & Lesbian Health Victoria.

Anna Brown, a co-author of the report as the former Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre and the incoming CEO of Equality Australia, tweeted in response to questions about the decision:

 

 

 

“We need stronger laws and support for survivors but also education about the harm caused by the cultural ideas and messaging prevalent within faith communities,” Brown said when the report was first released.

“We particularly urge governments across the country to respond to the acute vulnerability of children and young people in religious communities.”

“While adults are free to participate in informal religious conversion activities such as prayer groups and ‘spiritual deliverance’, as harmful as they are, as soon as these practices involve children, or are provided by counsellors or other professionals, there is a role for the law to play in protecting people from psychological harm.”

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