Gay conversion therapy will be banned in the Australian Capital Territory by the end of 2020 after the ACT government announced new plans to improve the lives of LGBTIQ+ Canberrans.
“Gay conversion therapy” is the blanket term for an attempt to change someone’s sexuality or gender identity. Usually carried about by religious groups, these “therapies” can vary and include counselling, prayer, hydrotherapy and even exorcisms.
The announcement is part of the ACT’s new “action plan” to better the lives of territory’s LGBTIQ+ community.
ACT Labor Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the introduction of legislation will “put an end” to the unfounded practice and sends a clear message that LGBTIQ+ people do not need to be “cured”.
“Being told that you are broken, can break you,” Barr said.
“LGBT Canberrans are not sick or unnatural and we do not need to be ‘changed’, ‘cured’, ‘converted’, ‘healed’ or whatever term is used by practitioners [for] harmful and outdated ‘conversion therapy’.”
Barr noted that every major Australian medical association had publicly condemned ‘conversion therapy’ and that newly introduced legislation would also be supported with non-legislative measures.
“However, they continue to take place, increasingly outside of the health system, and often in dubious religious contexts,” he said.
“The ACT Government will introduce legislation to prohibit the practice in Canberra.
“This will be backed up by non-legislative measures aimed at education, prevention and support.
“It’s time to put an end to this.”
The action plan’s primary goal is to make Canberra the most LGBTIQ+ welcoming and inclusive city in Australia.
The action plan, referred to as the ‘Capital of Equality, First Action Plan 2019 and 2020′ is a new government strategy which includes a range of initiatives to end discrimination, provide support services, ensure better education and raise awareness to harmful practices.
Ex-Evangelical preacher, founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International (ABBI) and one of the oldest living survivors of gay conversion therapy, Anthony Venn-Brown, previously told City Hub that legislation preventing conversion therapy not only sends a strong message to practitioners but also individuals seeking out these practices.
“When you are a Christian living with a belief that your attraction to the same gender means something is wrong with you, or you’re evil, you will do anything to change that or deliver yourself from it. And so, the harm begins. It’s the fundamental belief that is the source of the problem,” he said.
“There was a time when ignorance about sexual orientation and gender identity was common. Legislation sends a very clear message that this belief and practice is no longer accepted or tolerated in Australia in the 21st century.”
As well as sending a “strong message” about conversion therapy, the action plan will also amend the Births Deaths and Marriage Registration Act 1997 to make changing birth registration and birth certificates easier for trans and gender-queer people, with particular emphasis on young people.
These amendments will create a single form for changing one’s sex and name.
The Government will also be working with human rights organisations, intersex people and healthcare professionals on how the prohibition of deferrable medical interventions on intersex people could operate in Canberra.