The Australian Christian Lobby has a new target – the Victorian government’s proposed law against conversion practices that seek to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Lobby has termed the Change And Suppression (Conversion) Prohibition Bill, introduced last month in the Victorian Parliament, as the “most dangerous and draconian bill we have ever seen in Australia” and claims that the legislation  “could land anyone in jail for failing to toe the line on LGBTQ issues.” The Bill in reality does no such thing and instead acts against harmful and unscientific conversion practices.

ACL managing director, Martyn Iles in a press statement remarked that the Bill would “make the Soviets blush” and goes on to incredulously claim that such “practices are not happening in Australia as already noted by other state governments.”

“The Bill digs up relics of the past as an excuse to ban innocent practices like the teaching of scripture, friends praying for each other, and parents affirming their kids’ biology, to name a few. The Bill lies about the existence of LGBT people who want to embrace their faith and live according to the standards of their faith. The Bill guarantees they cannot seek voluntary pastoral support, pretending these Australians do not exist,” said Iles.

The Lobby alleged that parents were at risk of being named offenders under the family violence laws and has asked people to defend their “religious freedom and parental rights” by writing to their MPs to vote against the Bill, when it is taken up in Parliament early next year.

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 LGBTQI organisations and survivor groups had welcomed the Bill as a “world leading legislation.”

The Bill prohibits the so-called ‘conversion therapy’ and 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.

If Victorians try to subject people to these practices outside Victoria with a view to avoid harsh penalties in the state, they could face a jail term of up to two years. Advertising such harmful practices will invite criminal prosecution and fines of up to $10,000. In certain circumstances conversion practices could be considered as a form of family violence. The Bill provides a mechanism for a civil response scheme within the VEOHRC to support survivors.

“This Bill sends a powerful message that LGBTQ+ people are whole and valid just as they are, and establishes powerful mechanisms to deal with incredibly harmful practices that LGBTQI+ people endure across Victoria,” said Equality Australia.

“We need to keep the pressure on to ensure the Bill will have broad support in the Victorian Parliament so we see the passage of this world-leading legislation. While no law can fix a complex social problem on its own, this Bill is a great step towards ending the incredible harm caused by attempted LGBTQ+ conversion practices.”

Equality Australia has asked Victorians to write to their local MP to support the bill. If you are in Victoria, the organisation has made it easier for you to write a letter to the MP with this handy online resource.

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