Liberal Democrats have announced that they will oppose the Victorian government’s new Bill banning conversion practices that seek to change a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity. The announcement came even as the Greens and two crossbench MPs announced on Tuesday that they will join Labor in supporting the ban on conversion practices in the Legislative Council. The support of the three cross bench MPs is likely to help the Bill pass the upper house.

The 11 Liberal MPs are yet to clarify their stand, with reports that the party has two divergent voices on the issue, one in favour and others who oppose.

The Change Or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020 was passed in the Lower House with the Liberal MPs abstaining. The Bill will now be taken up for discussion in the legislative council on Thursday.

‘Cannot Support This Bill’

The Liberal Democrats have two members in the legislative council – David Limbrick and Tim Quilty.

“Adults who approached their faith leaders, wishing to have a conversation about changing their lives, should be free to do so. Whether this is related to their sexuality or any other matter,” Limbrick said in a statement. 

“We met with several people who have claimed significant benefit from these conversations, which would now be prohibited,” said the MP without placing on record any evidence to prove this statement. In fact evidence has shown that conversion practices cause harm to LGBTQI people.

“We have heard firsthand accounts of the emotional hardships some conversion practices have caused, and we condemn these harmful practices,” the MP admitted. “However, we don’t believe this legislation gets the balance right. We cannot support this bill. When it tramples over several human rights laid down in the charter, including freedom of thought conscience, religion and belief, as well as freedom of expression, the legislation creates a legal grey area that threatens people with gout, or investigation for providing support to people in good faith.” 

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Limbrick sought to claim that they have always supported LGBTQI rights by pointing to the fact that the party had always voted in favour of marriage equality. 

“We believe the government should not interfere with any of our private choices, including choices about our sexuality and religion. By opposing this bill, we will once again be standing up for the rights of consenting adults to make their own choices,” added Limbrick. 

Bill Splits Liberals, Crossbench MPs Pledge Support

The Liberals have 11 MPs in the legislative council and it remains to be seen as to how they would vote. The Age on Tuesday reported about the division among Liberal MPs, with some in favour of voting for the ban while other conservative members want to oppose the Bill. The Liberal MPs were similar divided before the vote in the legislative assembly and had abstained during the vote.

This follows conservative organisations like the Australian Christian Lobby and the Australian Family Association upping their opposition to the Bill.

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Three crossbenchers, including, the Greens MP, have said that they will vote in favour of the ban on conversion practices. Greens MP Samantha Ratnam termed the arguments against the Bill as “inherently homophobic and wrong.”

Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick, who is the father of two transgender children said he will support the Bill. “The bill does something that should have been done a long time ago. It ends cruel so-called conversion therapies that attempt to suppress a person’s sexual or gender identity,” Meddick wrote in The Age

Reason Party MP Fiona Patten has also said she will vote for the ban. With these three crossbench votes, the Bill is likely to pass the legislative council.

Victoria’s World-Leading Law

The Victorian Bill against conversion practices has been called a “world leading legislation” by activists and survivors. 

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The law makes it a criminal offence to subject others to practices aimed at changing or suppressing their sexual orientation or gender identity that cause injury or serious injury. If these practices cause serious injury the offender can face up to 10 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $200,000. In case of injury the maximum prison term is five years and/or a fine of up to $100,000. 

The Victorian law will cover all settings, including health and religious organisations. There are penalties for people who may try and take someone outside Victoria to subject them to conversion practices. Advertising such harmful practices will invite criminal prosecution and fines of up to $10,000. 

Equality Australia has an online resource which you can use to write to your local MP to support the Bill.

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